Yerr Wetimbi yi Yerr Marrgu / Old Way & New Way
Kieren Karritpul + Patricia Marfurra
Exhibition: 30 March to 27 April 2019
Opening Talk Saturday, 30 March at 2 pm
by Marcus Hughes, Head of Indigenous Engagement & Strategy,
Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS)
About the Exhibition
The foundation for the exhibition Yerr Wetimbi yi Yerr Marrgu / Old Way & New Way is deceptively simple: linguist and artist / weaver Patricia Marfurra has made a huge and magical woven fishnet which Kieren Karritpul translates into delicate abstract paintings. The "old way and new way" working relationship between mother and son however reveals a shared commitment to sustainability and community. Patricia Marfurra's woven and Kieren Karritpul's painted tributes honour the teachings of their ancestors and demonstrate the way strong cultural connections in daily life can be maintained.
Kieren Karritpul and Patricia Marfurra are recognised Ngen’gi wumirri artists from Nauiyu Nambiyu, a small community on the Daly River about three hours south-west of Darwin. In this river valley there is no escaping the woven lines of inspiration and connection.The woven form of the Merrepen palm is both subject and metaphor for process and community. Yerrgi is the Daly River word (Ngan’gikurrungurr language) for the pandanus plant, the Screw Palm, Pandanus spiralis which together with the Sand Palm (merrepen, Livistona humilis) are the main sources of fibre for Top End weavers.
The artists invite us to share this inter-generational communication and exchange. The exhibition’s piece de resistance Patricia Marfurra’s handwoven net is traditionally used by older women to collect fish and turtles. In Kieren Karritpul’s paintings and textiles the fishnet is a reoccurring motif and each painted line echoes the woven line. As a young man, Kieren watched his mother, grandma and other older women fishing in a billabong where kids catch fish or barramundi. Today he applies this keen gaze to his artwork and hunting.
Writing the catalogue essay for Kieren Karritpul’s debut exhibition at Nomad Arts in Darwin in 2015, the astute art historian Maurice O’Riordan described the lineage of Top End artists who give form to woven objects through the two-dimensional medium of painting. O’Riordan cites Nauiyu on Daly River and nearby Peppimenarti art communities in particular (pioneered by Regina Wilson and the late Patsy Marrfura), Arnhem Land artists such as Kate Miwulku (Maningrida) and Robyn Djunginy (Ramingining) and Darwin-based artist Karen Mills’s “minimalist musings on this theme through painterly abstraction”. It is this grand tradition that Kieren Karritpul and Patricia Marfurra delight in and draw strength from. It is also now one of contemporary Australian art’s great themes.
The communal process of gathering and preparing the pandanus fibres is an opportunity for passing on ‘old stories’ and cultural knowledge. From this we infer that it is time to shift our conversations to what we can and are doing to conserve traditional botanical knowledge and water resources in the face of global climate collapse. The traditional owners are worried about the Northern Territory government’s policy of issuing long-term water licences to extract very large amounts of water from the aquifers which feed the Daly, Katherine and Roper Rivers, without a water allocation plan in place.
Kieren Karripul, Fish Net 1, 2019, acrylic on linen, 112.5 x 125 cm (#10022)
Kieren Karripul, Wauipan 2, 2019, acrylic on linen, 124 x 104 cm (#10015)
Kieren Karripul. Fish Net 2, 2019, acrylic on linen, 127.5 x 71 cm (#10010)
Kieren Karripul, Weaving, 2019, acrylic on linen, 127.5 x 89.5 cm (#10005)
Patricia Marfurra, selected weavings
Patricia Marfurra, selected weavings
Patricia Marfurra, Fishing Net – Walupan, 2019, hand woven and naturally dyed Merrepen palm, 2.1 x 1.2 metres, in situ
About the artists
Kieren Karritpul: In 2015 Karritpul won ‘Highly Commended, Youth’ at the 32nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and in 2014 he won the Youth Award at the 31st NATSIAA at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory. His artwork is in the collections of National Gallery of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (MAGNT), Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Sydney and the Museum of Cultural History, Norway. Sources: Merrepen Arts, Nomad Arts, MAGNT.
Patricia Marfurra (McTaggart), AM was a founder of the Women’s Centre in 1986 (now Merrepen Arts Centre) and Merrepen Arts, Language and Culture Aboriginal Corporation (founded 1992). She holds an Advanced Diploma in Linguistics and has worked with the University of New England on the Ngan’gikurunggur and Ngen’giwumirri Dictionary (with Nicholas Reid, 2008) and collaborated with Glenn Wightman of Parks and Wildlife Commission (NT) on books of Ethnobotany from the Daly River area and the Malak Malak and Matngala Plants and Animals published by Deptment of Land Resources Management and Merrepen Arts in 2014. She was awarded an Australia Medal for her services to the community documenting language and ethnobotany in the Daly River area. Contact Merrepen Arts for copies of these publications.
About Merrepen Arts
Merrepen Arts at Nauiyu Nambiyu sits in a small Aboriginal community of around 450 residents located in the valley next to the Daly River. The main language groups of the artists are Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri.
Merrepen Art Centre began as a Women’s Centre in 1986 with Merrepen Arts, Language and Culture Aboriginal Corporation founded in 1992. To recognise the founding women the name Merrepen was chosen. Merrepen comes from Livistonia Palm (commonly known as the cabbage-tree palm), a heraldic and iconic plant that flourishes on the banks of the Daly River and is collected by women for weaving dilly bags, mats and fishnets. The centre is renowned for strong, contemporary design that stresses ecology and the natural environment applied to a range of media (painting, printmaking, textile design and weaving). Works often reflect the landscape of surrounding hills, spectacular wetlands and billabongs, with an abundant supply of bush tucker including barramundi. Patricia Marfurra’s older son is successful printer and designer Aaron McTaggart who is also renowned for his textile designs with his crocodile designs featured at Darwin Airport.
Merrepen Arts - http://www.merrepenarts.com.au/
ANKAAA - http://www.ankaaa.org.au/
Download Exhibitions and Publications on Merrepen Art
Following lines: Art and Ecology from Merrepen (2015), for 40th Anniversary of United Nations designated International Women's Year (1975). Leading Merrepen artists represented included Gracie Kumbi, Marita Sambono, Kieren Karritpul, and Ann Carmel Mulvien and Patricia Marfurra. Several works from Following Lines are now on show at MAAS. http://crossart.com.au/archive/96-2015-exhibitions-projects/278-merrepen-art-and-ecology
Postcard invite - Following Lines: Art and Ecology from Merrepen > Download as pdf
Following lines: Art and Ecology from Merrepen Arts by Marie Falcinella > Download as pdf
Essay by Maurice O’Riordan, Woven Lines: On Kieren Karritul. Courtesy Maurice O’Riordan, director NCCA and Nomad Art, Darwin. > Download as pdf
Talking Up Textiles: Community Fabric and Indigenous Industry. Stories from the Forum in Gunbalanya, August 2012. Published by ANKAAA 2013. http://ankaaa.org.au/publication/talking-up-textiles/ or Download as pdf
Strategic Plan of the Powerhouse Museum (MAAS) in Sydney, February 2017). See 'Merrepen', a screenprinted textile length on linen, designed and made by Gracie Kumbi, Merrepen Art Centre, Nauiyu on the Daly River, Northern Territory, Australia, 2013. Image credit: Marinco Kojdanovs > Download as pdf
‘Textiles from Merrepen Arts’ by Anne-Marie Van De Ven, MAAS Magazine, Winter 2016. On new acquisitions from Following Lines: Art and Ecology from Merrepen. > Download as pdf
We Paint the Story of our Culture! A Study of the Aboriginal Art Movement at Merrepen Art Centre, Daly River by Maria Øien. (2005).
Top End Biocultural Knowledge and Environment
Ngan’gi Plants and Animals, 2014 by ethnobiologist Glenn Wightman and artist Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM.
Malakmalak and Matnglaa Plants and Animals, Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin No 26. Published by Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory Darwin, 2001.
Ngan'gi biocultural knowledge and relatively recent scientific knowledge of the country including seasonal indicators and a guide to Ngan'gi language. See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-10/ngangi-plants-animals-book-indigenous-ecology/5496446
Wetland Habitats of The Top End, Michael Michie http://members.ozemail.com.au/~mmichie/habitat1.htm
Campaign to Protect Top End Rivers: Stop the sell-off of water from the aquifers feeding the Daly, Katherine and Roper Rivers - http://ecnt.org.au/stand-up-to-protect-our-top-end-rivers/
Download a printable version of the Wagiman plants and animals calendar from the CSIRO Research Publications Repository. > Download pdf
CSIRO, Nauiyu Seasons Calendar. https://www.nespnorthern.edu.au/