• Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands

    17 November to 15 December 2018

Opening conversation: Sunday 18 November at 2 pm

With Will Stubbs, co-ordinator Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre and Nongirrnga Marawili, artist

Exhibition dates: 17 November to 15 December 2018

 

Artists: Kaye Brown, Raelene Kerinauia, Banduk Marika, Nongirrnga Marawili, Liyawaday Marawili, Marrnyula Munungurr, Rerrkirrwanga Munungurr, Mulkun Wirrpanda, Mrs Wirrpanda (Galuma Maymuru) & Michelle Woody Minnapinni
Presented with: Buku Art Centre at Yirrkala, NT & Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association, Milikapiti Community (Snake Bay), Melville Island, NT


Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, brings together generations of artists committed to keeping Yolgnu and Tiwi law and culture strong. The exhibition considers their work from the perspective of a feminist genealogy tracing matriarchal and collegiate relationships.
Elders can be comparatively young in a biological sense, as the focus is on life stages and relative degrees of maturity, rather than on chronological age (Morphy, 2004). Value is placed on cultural knowledge and helping children understand the practical aspects of life, society and culture as well leadership abilities and decision making on behalf of the community.


The exhibiting artists often teach, run art centres or do ranger work: Nongirrnga Marawili for example, is a senior advisor to children at Yirrkala school, Banduk Marika has served on the Boards of the National Gallery and Australia Council and Michelle Woody Minnapinni is the current chair of Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association which includes the fine Muluwurri Museum (established in 1988), a collection held in trust for the Milikapiti community. Historically northeast Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands formed part of the Macassan trading routes.


The contemporary Aboriginal art world was forged in a time of radical change in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the merging of previously divisive categories of urban versus traditional, or innovative versus static. During this time, they founded the artist-run art centres and ANKAAA in Darwin (now ANKA and Desart). Another decisive moment other was the homelands movement enabled by the Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) in 1976. Most Yolngu artists work from autonomous homelands.

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Raelene Kerinauia Liddy (Lampuwatu), Kulama. 120 x 150cm, natural ochres on linen. Cat# 155-09.

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Raelene Kerinauia, Kayimwagakimi jilamara. 120 x 90cm, natural ochre on linen. Cat# 105-17.

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Ngiya jilamara I, natural ochre on paper, 76 x 105 cm. Cat# 372-16.

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

The Cross Art Projects, MATRIARCHS – Motherlines of the Yolgnu and the Tiwi Islands. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Motherlines, installation view. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Motherlines, installation view. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Motherlines, installation view. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Winga Amintiya Yuwunka, natural ochres on linen, 90 x 120 cm (577-18). Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Motherlines, installation view. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Motherlines, installation view. Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Mulkun Wirrpanda, Walu Daykun, natural ochres on bark, 157 x 68 cm (31560). Photo by Silversalt Photography

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Michelle Woody, Winga Wama, natural ochres on canvas, 120 x 90 cm (137-18). Photo by Silversalt Photography

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Raelene Kerinauia, Kayimwagakimi Jilamara I, natural ochres on stringybark, 118 x 45 cm, framed (345-18). Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Raelene Kerinauia, Kayimwagakimi Jilamara III, natural ochres on stringybark, 118 x 45 cm, framed (344-18). Photo by Silversalt Photography

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Parlingarri Jilamara, natural ochres on stringybark, 50.5 x 12 cm (444-17)

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Parlingarri Jilamara, natural ochres on stringybark, 70.5 x 19 cm (443-17)

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Parlini Jilamra (old design), natural ochres on stringy bark, 76 x 16 cm (373-17)

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kaye Brown, Japinamini Japalinga 2018. 105 x 36cm, natural ochres on ironwood, Cat# 182-18

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Raelene Kerinauia (Lampuwatu), Fresh Water / Salt Water, 140 x 68cm natural ochres on stringy bark. Cat# 252-14

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Mrs Wirrpanda (Galuma Maymuru), detail Noykal (Larrakitj), Natural ochres on stringybark hollow pole, 239 cm. (2551-16)

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Liyawaday Wirrpanda, Mana at Yalata, Natural ochres on bark, 186 x 94 cm. (4115P)

Jacqueline Rose Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Marrnyula Munungurr, Djapu Gapu, Natural ochres on bark, 72 x 26 cm. (4700D)    

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Rerrkirrwana Munungurr, Djapu Gapu, Natural ochres on bark, 59 x 39 cm. (4703H)

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects

Kayimwagakimi, the traditional carved Tiwi comb in action – still used by a handful of Tiwi artists.

Matriarchs: Yolngu Artists  

In 1982 Banduk Marika mounted the first of several exhibitions of women’s work from Arnhem Land at Seasons Gallery in North Sydney (which she ran with Jennifer Isaacs). When Banduk and family returned to Yirrkala she became manager of Buku-Larrnggay Art Centre. Banduk Marika is affiliated with Yalanbara and Gulurnya homelands — the land on which the art centre stands.

Another decisive moment (from the late 1970s and 1980s) was when some senior lawmen taught their daughters to paint sacred imagery onto bark at Yirrkala, an innovation that produced some of the most renowned Australian painters of the late-twentieth century;

Amongst the first women to paint sacred clan designs was the late Galuma Maymuru (Mrs Wirrpanda), instructed by her father the great Narritjin. Banduk Marika and her sisters were taught Rirratjingu clan designs by their father Mawalan Marika. They knew that the Indigenous cultural knowledge base and contemporary art was of inestimable value for Australia and the world and needed to survive the impact of the bauxite mine they had fought so hard to stop.

Generational shifts and changes in materials have transformed the ‘classic Yolngu aesthetic’ and enabling brighter cross-hatching and the easy moves from body scale to museum scaled work. Many artists now focus on long-term art and research projects, for example Mulkun Wirrpanda has worked with John Wolsley on Midawarr / Harvest, a National Museum Australia touring exhibition and major catalogue (edited by Will Stubbs and John Wolsley, 2018) and Nongirrnga Marawili’s solo exhibition, From my heart and mind, at the Art Gallery of NSW is concurrent with Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands.

The leadership of the Yolngu continues to resist their dispossession by government and Bauxite miners. In addition to the Yirrkala Church Panels and Yirrkala Bark Petition, they have used their art to assert their connection to land in; the Gove Land Rights Case; the Woodward Royal Commission; the Barunga Statement; the Yirrkala Homeland Movement; the Land Rights Act (NT) 1976; the Both Ways education bilingual curriculum; and the contemporary music band Yothu Yindi.

Under Yolngu Law the ‘Land’ extends to include sea. Both land and sea are connected in a single cycle of life for which the Yolngu hold the songs and designs. To demonstrate their rights and responsibilities the landowners combined to make the Saltwater Collection of Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country in 1997. (National tour 1998-2001; now held at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney). In 2008, the High Court determined that the Yolngu were the owners of sea estates covering Aboriginal land.

Works here by Banduk Marika, Nongirrnga Marawili, Liyawaday Marawili, Marrnyula Munungurr, Rerrkirrwanga Munungurr, Mulkun Wirrpanda, Mrs Wirrpanda (Galuma Maymuru) feature miny’tji and continue to rebut the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’ (that Australia was ‘unoccupied country’ before colonisation).

Matriarchs: Tiwi Artists  

Parlini Jilamara means old design. Jilamara is originally drawn from the body painting which accompanied the pukumani (funeral) and kulama (initiation / yam) ceremonies. Yirinkirripwoja or body-painting (often shortened to Pwoja) is applied to performers in these major ceremonies. Most vividly, Jilamara is also used to decorate the tutini or pukumani poles placed on the gravesites, the haunting ochre designs left to weather following the mourning rituals.  

Over three decades artists have worked under the auspices of Jilamara Arts and Crafts a contemporary art centre on Melville Island, established by the esteemed Kitty Kantilla and Freda Warlapinni. The next generation notably, Raelene Kerinauia, Timothy Cook, Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri and Janice Murray are also firmly established internationally and are now joined by Kaye Brown and Michelle Woody Minnapinni. Each artist’s strong mark-making brings to life Tiwi memory collective memory and aesthetics. The ochres are from coastal cliffs on Melville Island.

Kaye Brown and Raelene Kerinauia paint with the Kayimwagakimi, the traditional carved Tiwi comb still used by a handful of Tiwi artists. Made from bloodwood or ironwood, it is about 15cm high with a single row of teeth. The comb is dabbed in ochre and applied to the painting surface resulting in a straight line of fine dots. Kayimwagakimi and marlipinyini (a fine stick or pandanus frond chewed to form a brush) have largely been replaced by modern brushes.

Raelene Kerinauia uses the painting comb to create finely orchestrated compositions of grids and cross-hatches sometimes composed over stripes of ochre colours. While inheritance determines Kerinauia’s skin group Sun (see the painting Sun Design), her dance, Crocodile, and her country at Pickataramoor, her art deploys Tiwi tradition with a signature minimalism. In contemporary art practice, the grace and rhythm of Kerinauia’s surfaces stand apart.

Similarly, Kaye Brown’s works speak to old Tiwi paintings shown by the strong intersecting line design, over layered ochres to create glowing depths that absorb and change with the light. She moves from Jilamara paintings to depicting the mixing of fresh and salt water in the intertidal areas of the islands and, as in the painting ‘Winga Amintiya Yuwunka’, is equally capable of creating a luminous sea scape.  Michelle Woody Minnapinni often paints with a brush, but the work ‘Winga Wama’ also uses pwoja technique and motifs in striking gestural contemporary as if the saltwaters themselves mix the traditional and modern.

Tiwi Art Centres

There are three major art centres on the Tiwi Islands, Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association, Munupi Arts & Crafts Association and Tiwi Design. Tiwi Designs, the oldest of the centres, was established by Bede Tungutalum and Giovanni Tipungwuti at Nguiu on Bathurst Island in 1970 (although art was made there from 1968). On Melville Island, at Milikapiti, Jilamara Arts & Crafts Association began informally in 1985 as an adult education centre specialising in fabric design. (Raelene Kerinauia trained here.) The centre began operating in a more official capacity in 1989.  Munupi Arts & Crafts Association is the newest art centre, formalised in 1990 when the Yikiyikini Women’s Centre and Pirlangimpi Pottery were incorporated.. Munupi is situated at Pirlangimpi (Garden Point) on Melville Island.

Acknowledgements


Thanks to the artists’ representative galleries for their support. Special thanks to Will Stubbs at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre and Jackie Hosking at Jilamara Arts and Crafts. Thanks to centre art workers for artist biographies and artwork stories.

Links
Buku Larrnggay Mulka (or Buku) at https://yirrkala.com/
Jilamara Arts & Crafts at http://ankaaa.org.au/art-centre/jilamara-arts-crafts-tiwi-islands/
Nonggirrnga Marawili exhibition AGNSW at https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/nonggirrnga-marawili/
Being Tiwi exhibition at MCA Sydney at https://digital.mca.com.au/being-tiwi-touring-resource/p/1
Midawarr / Harvest, Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolsley a national touring exhibition by NMA at http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/midawarr-harvest

References

Vivien Johnson, ‘Interview with Banduk Marika, Sydney 1986’, in Dissonance. Feminism and the Arts 1970-90, ed., by Catriona Moore, Artspace, 1994.

Djon Mundine, ‘Saltwater’, in Saltwater: Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, 1999, p. 22.

Matriarchs: Motherlines of the Yolgnu and Tiwi Islands, Artwork at The Cross Art Projects