Yirrkala, After Berndt, 1947–2013 — 12 Dec 2013 to Jan 2014

 

About: Yirrkala After Berndt, 1947-2013

 

The exhibition Yirrkala, After Berndt re-asserts customary Indigenous inheritance envisaged as a contemporary honouring of the exhibition Yirrkala Drawings (1946-47) at the Art Gallery of NSW, the first major exhibition to focus specifically on the collection of drawings held by the Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia in Perth. In 1947 Yolngu elders were sharing their knowledge as part of their ongoing task of renewing and enlivening the Law. Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren inherit that Law and the task of celebrating it. Buku-Larrnggay Mulka, Yirrkala, the art centre through which the descendants of the artists continue to work, has organised this exhibition as a contemporary tribute comprising After Berndt, a unique group of contemporary etchings made in 2008 to celebrate the opening of the Mulka Centre at Yirrkala, the digital media archive and studio which holds exact replicas to the drawings and recent paintings by Marrnyula Mununggurr and Naminapu Maymuru-White, featured artists in Yirrkala Drawings (1946-47).

 

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Wonggu Mununggurr (c 1884-1958, Djapu clan Dhuwa moiety), Fish trap at Wandawuy, 1947. Lumber crayon on butcher's paper, 114 x 74 cm. From Yirrkala Drawings, AGNSW, courtesy Berndt Collection, University of Western Australia
Marrnyula Mununggurr, Untitled (Djapu clan fish trap design), bark painting, 2013. Detail
Marrnyula Mununggurr, Untitled (Djapu clan design), etching, 2008.
 

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Banduk Marika, from the series After Berndt, 2008. Etching on Hannemulle 40 x 60 cm.


 

 

The Yirrkala Drawings are a unique collection of artworks made in crayon on butcher's paper, stunning in their visual strength and impact. They are an unrivalled document of Yolngu knowledge and Law and culture made in 1947 by 27 senior leaders of the Yirrkala community while working with anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt. The resulting 365 crayon drawings have remained in the Berndt Museum at The University of Western Australia in Perth where they have only been seen by appointment. The opening of the Mulka Centre in Yirrkala enabled their public release as a profound statement on Indigenous repatriation.

 

During Gama Festival 2007, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre formally opened its philanthropically funded digital media archive and studio, the Mulka Centre. This achieved the beginning of a dream: to develop a cultural archive that could house copies of research recordings, photographs, sound recordings and the like made with Yolngu people over the decades since the establishment of the Yirrkala Mission in 1935. After sixty years the Berndt images returned to the place of their creation. The Mulka Project funded the reproduction of 100 of these historic works. They were recreated so they appear at almost the actual size of the originals on paper. For Yolngu the intellectual property in the designs matters rather than the actual piece of paper they were rendered on originally.

 

To honour the crayon drawings the printmakers of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre collaborated with Basil Hall of Basil Hall Editions. To capture the feel of the works from sixty-six years ago, they mastered a new technique that uses pencils on a soft ground etching plate. The point of the pencil dislodges the wax that coats the zinc plate lying under the paper. Acid then etches the artist’s own line into that metal. The printers then laboriously rub ink into these crannies. Each new colour requires a new plate.

 

 

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Yalpi Yunupingu, Untitled, from the series After Berndt, 2008.
Mulkun#1 Wirrpanda, Wukidi from the series After Berndt, 2008. Etching on Hannemulle, 40 x 60 cm. Ref no 15B. Marrirra Marawili, Limbarrki from the series After Berndt, 2008. Etching on Hannemulle 40 x 60 cm. Ref no 77A. .


Nowadays, Yolngu art is public and its richness can be displayed. The Berndt Museum’s collections of Yolngu materials from Yirrkala that Ronald and Catherine Berndt started collecting in 1946 numbers over 1,000 items, including bark paintings, crayon drawings and sculptures, etc. (The other key Yolngu collection is the Donald Thompson Collection at the Museum of Victoria.)  The Berndt Museum has nominated the crayon drawing collection onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for the extraordinary aesthetic significance of the crayon drawings on brown paper and their demonstration of the complexity and structure of Yolngu spiritual beliefs.

 

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Wonggu Mununggurr (c 1884-1958, Djapu clan Dhuwa moiety), Fish trap at Wandawuy, 1947. Lumber crayon on butcher's paper, 114 x 74 cm. From Yirrkala Drawings, AGNSW, courtesy Berndt Collection, University of Western Australia
Marrnyula Mununggurr, Untitled (Djapu clan fish trap design), bark painting, 2013. Detail.
Marrnyula Mununggurr, Untitled (Djapu clan design). Detail.
 


Printmakers Araluen Maymuru, Marrnyula Mununggurr and Dianne Blake, with assistants Dindirrk Mununggurr, Whaiora Tukaki, Djuwakang Marika, Barayuwa Mununggurr, Rosie Ngyilipa Pearson and Ruby Djikarra Alderton, produced the bulk of the 30 editions in the Yirrkala printshop of Buku- Larrnggay. Basil Hall and Merran Sierakowski provided training in soft ground etching techniques.

 

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Naminapu#1 Maymuru, Djarrakpi from the series After Berndt, 2008. Paper Hannemulle 40 x 60 cm. Ref Number 11G.


 

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Opening of Yirrkala After Berndt by Naminapu Maymuru–White (centre) with Waka Mununggurr, Yalpi Yunupingu, Gunybi Ganambarr and welcome from Djon Mundine.
Yirrkala After Berndt: power music of Waka Mununggurr (yidaki) and songs of Yalpi Yunupingu, Gunybi Ganambarr and talk by Naminapu Maymuru–White.
 

 

Links

Yirrkala Drawings at Art Gallery of NSW, to 23 February 2014 — http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/channel/exhibitions/yirrkala-drawings/

Australia’s vibrant Indigenous art industry in Northern Australia: contact ANKAAA — http://www.ankaaa.org

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre at Yirrkala NT — http://www.yirrkala.com/

ANKAAA Arts Backbone: Volume 13, Issue 2 > Download pdf

 

Special thanks

Saskia Havekes (Grandiflora) for creating a sculptural seasonal tribute for the exhibition — http://www.crossart.com.au/index.php/rite-of-spring-rrarrandharr.html

 

Related events

Yirrkala Drawings panel discussion with Andrew Blake, Howard Morphy, Wäka Mununggurr and John Stanton. AGNSW, Temporary exhibitions gallery, 12 December 2013, 1pm.