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.
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.
Raelene Kerinauia Liddy (Lampuwatu), Kulama. 120 x 150cm, natural ochres on linen. Cat# 155-09.
Raelene Kerinauia, Kayimwagakimi jilamara. 120 x 90cm, natural ochre on linen. Cat# 105-17.
Kaye Brown, Ngiya jilamara I, natural ochre on paper, 76 x 105 cm. Cat# 372-16.
Kaye Brown, Japinamini Japalinga 2018. 105 x 36cm, natural ochres on ironwood, Cat# 182-18
Raelene Kerinauia (Lampuwatu), Fresh Water / Salt Water, 140 x 68cm natural ochres on stringy bark. Cat# 252-14
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. All the artists draw on collective Tiwi memory, and individual expression and aesthetics.
Kayimwagakimi is the traditional Tiwi painting 'comb'. 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 but a handful of Tiwi artists use traditional tools.
Kaye Brown and Raelene Kerinauia paint with the Kayimwagakimi, sometimes called pwoja which also means bone. The painting comb is made from ironwood, and is used to paint on the body, on carvings and Tutini (Pukumani poles). Kaye Brown’s work refers to old Tiwi paintings depicting the mixing of fresh and salt water in the intertidal areas of the islands. This is shown by the strong intersecting line design. In the works Kayimwagakimi jilamara (Nos I and III), Raelene Kerinauia has prepared stringy bark which was traditionally painted on before the use of canvas and linen. Instead of preparing larger sheets of the stringy bark she has sanded them back to long strips, referencing fighting sticks made from ironwood which were used long ago on the Tiwi Islands. Michelle Woody Minnapinni often paints with a brush, but the work selected for Matriarchs uses pwoja technique and motifs but in a contemporary manner. Raelene Kerinauia has been exhibiting for some decades and featured in Being Tiwi at the MCA. Raelene and Kaye Brown featured in Tiwi Mamirnikuwi Jilamara / Tiwi Women Painting at The Cross Art Projects (both 2016) and Michelle Woody Minnapinni is an emerging art matriarch. All artists use ochres are from the Tiwi Islands.