• RISE 2.2: Considerations of saltwater, fish, mangroves & people, oil & plastic

    11 June to 6 August 2022

  • RISE 2.2: Considerations of saltwater, fish, mangroves & people, oil & plastic

    11 June to 6 August 2022

  • RISE 2.2: Considerations of saltwater, fish, mangroves & people, oil & plastic

    11 June to 6 August 2022

  • RISE 2.2: Considerations of saltwater, fish, mangroves & people, oil & plastic

    11 June to 6 August 2022

GADAWULKWULK means SHELTER: Barayuwa Mununggurr and Ruark Lewis — 15 March to 14 April 2012


Presented with Buku-Larrngay Mulka Arts

15 March to 14 April 2012

A cross-cultural exhibition by Barayuwa Mununggurr and Ruark Lewis bridging the vastly different heritages and social realities of the art communities of Yirkalla and Sydney.


The artists met in Sydney in 2007 when Mununggurr was in a group exhibition. The renowned Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre at Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem Land subsequently assisted four meetings. Barayuwa Mununggurr has twice invited Ruark Lewis to make the difficult trip to his birthplace, the Wandawuy outstation near Blue Mud Bay (in December 2009 and September 2010). They hope to help connect city-based audiences with contemporary Yolngu art forms, language and world view.


They also camped on the beach of Yarrinya in Blue Mud Bay on the coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria, making video and sound recordings of the place and the daily activities of collecting food, fishing and making shelters. Yarrinya and its surrounds are the custodial country of the Munyuku clan including the families of Barayuwa's mother Bengitj Ngurruwuthun, a painter, and her brother the late Dula Ngurruwuthun, a senior artist and ritual specialist who mentored Barayuwa.



Barayuwa Mununggurr,Yarrinya, 2010 (3682O). Ochre on bark, 92 x 86 cm
Barayuwa Mununggurr, Yarrinya, 2010 (3691L). Ochre on bark, 85 x 80 cm


The traditional shelters built at Yarrinya and later at Yirrkala (outside the art centre) allude to the Mununggurr family ideal of building a house at their custodial estate. The shelter and homeland stands in contrast to the Federal Government's political 'intervention': a crisis creating new hardships including forced integration into townships like Yirkalla. The artists work structurally against this background, one using stories and the other often using patterns and forms of words. They see objects as a descriptive and conceptual system to express ideas in concrete form.



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Barayuwa Mununggurr, From Gadawulkwulk means Shelter 2009. Photo Ruark Lewis      


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      Barayuwa Mununggurr, Gadawulkwulk means Shelter, 2009. Detail from archival print series. Photo Ruark Lewis


Barayuwa Mununggurr’s fine paintings are abstracted visual studies of stories focused on the Munyuku waters at Yarrinya. They describe the water passages, wind and cloud formations reflecting into the water and the powers within the salt waters for which he is custodian. Specifically, Yarrinya is the site of an unlawful killing of the whale Mirinyungu, and the waters that swirl around the rock associated with Mirinyungu.


Bengitj Ngurruwuthun writes of her son's paintings: The design of the paintings indicates the waves that merged and roar from the roaring monsoons. The Mungurru mari (grandmother) salt water joins together with Garggirr Manbuynga gapu and together they play and flow to meet the Wulamba, Ritjilili Mangamaga (power name for Dhuwa saltwater). The dots in the paintings represent the foam of the water that comes, brings in munumpili (seaweed), Rurruwiliny (mangrove stalks and leaves) onto the seashore of Yarrinya and then goes out again. The curves of the sacred design represent Gapu Garnggirri Manbuynga Marrawa'pa thunaya Wuymirriwugu Marrk'piriwuy (power names of the splashes of the whale's tail). The sacred designs  also represent Gunbilk Marrawulwu (power names of the calmness of the sea at Yarrinya) and of the Garnggirr Manbuynga salt water after the raging waters from the stormy monsoons.

(Extract from: Bengitj Ngurruwuthun, 'Essay on the Paintings of Barayuwa Mununggurr', 2012. Download full essay.)

Barayuwa Mununggurr’s dynamic paintings and sculptural forms show the innovative flair with which his generation, like their mentors, are making deep and beautiful sacred art consistent with Yolngu madayin (law) while experimenting with form and design. For example, in Barayuwa’s distinctive square format bark paintings, yidaki and galpu (spearthrowers) show a strength and style reminiscent of his late uncle. His experimental painted whale bones are entirely his own, in response to this exchange. Playfully, his generation of Yolngu are called the ‘young guns’; an equivalent concept in Yolngu Matha (language) is spear blade (murrnginy) or, idiomatically, ‘deadly!’



Barayuwa Mununggurr, Mirinyunu at Yarrinya, 2011 (4051V). Bark, 57 x 51 cm


Barayuwa Mununggurr, Mirinyunu at Yarrinya, 2011 (3723T). Ochre on bark, 68 x 84 cm



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Barayuwa Mununggurr, (4131L), larrakitj
Barayuwa Mununggurr, Mirinyunu at Yarrinya, 2011 (4103D). Bark, 129 x 43 cm Barayuwa Mununggurr, (4106F), larrakitj



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Barayuwa Mununggurr, Yarrinya, 2011 (4040A). Bark, 55 x 57 cm
Barayuwa Mununggurr, Yarrinya (3699W), 2010. Ochres on bark, 92 x 51 cm
Barayuwa Mununggurr, Yarrinya, 2011 (4051V). Bark, 57 x 51 cm


Ruark Lewis’s recent graphite drawings, Star Shelters, derive from studies made while at Royal Darwin Hospital (nine weeks). The drawings, made to chance formulae, relate to discussions on Aboriginal astronomy with anthropologist Dianne Johnson and as ‘constellations’ of lines may resemble maps of the starry sky. However, they relate to the artist's idea of building shelters for patients and families living long-grass awaiting / visiting patients – temporary structures to house possessions.


Lewis’s Architextures are 'transcription paintings' developed from a poem cycle by American writer and anthropologist Nathaniel Tarn, a leading advocate of the heritage of poetry writing in indigenous languages. (The source is The Architextures: 1988-1994.) Their linear design resonates with Barayuwa’s preparatory drawing in light and dark ochre pigments now hidden beneath the surface of his painting. This idea of 'the bones of paintings' led to experimenting with the idea of a shelter and using Yolngu Matha to caption.


Through these parallel and inter-generational efforts to tell stories (a partnership between one emerging, one established artist), they hope to produce an enduring record of the dynamic processes of maintenance and flux in Yolngu culture today. The artists are working to realise a museum installation using aspects of historic and contemporary Yolngu art, installation and collaborative works.



Ruark Lewis, Star Shelters I, 2012 (detail). Graphite drawing, 44 x 29.5 cm Ruark Lewis, Star Shelters II, 2012 (detail). Graphite drawing, 50 x 46.5 cm  


About Barayuwa Mununggurr

Barayuwa and his wife Whaiora are long-time staff members of Buku-Larrngay Mulka, assisting all the artists of the community. Barayuwa paints both his own Djapu clan designs as well as his mother’s Munyuku clan designs. His father is recently deceased; his mother, Bingitj Nurruwutthun, is a sister to the great Dula Nurruwutthun. In 2003, Barayuwa and Whaiora returned to Yirrkala from Wandawuy outstation with his daughter Kaya. They now have three daughters. His first group exhibition was at Raft Artspace in Darwin (2007) followed by a solo show at Indigenart in Perth (2009). Also during 2009 he began a collaborative project with Sydney-based artist Ruark Lewis. Barayuwa is a talented Yidaki player who participates in ceremonial activities and an excellent bush and water hunter.

About Ruark Lewis

Ruark Lewis was born in Sydney and his interdisciplinary practice (painting, performance, poetics and installation) links art and language through collaborative works and actions. In the late 1980s he began work based on Arrente and Lorritja poetics and the writings of anthropologists Carl and TGH Strehlow. In 1989 he made transcriptions of drawings by Charles Mountford during the American Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948. Later these Yolngu transcriptions appeared in Banalities for The Perfect House at Performance Space (2005) and Transcriptions for The Perfect Place for Sydney Biennale (2006).

Thank you: Bengitj Ngurruwuthun (artist and art historian), Whaiora Tukaki (Mulka Centre filmmaker), Jeffrey Ngurruwuthun (Wukuyu) songman. At Buku-Larrnggay Milka Centre: Andrew Blake, Will Stubbs, Kade Macdonald. In Sydney: Jo Holder, Jonathan Jones, Dianne Johnson, Djon Mundine, Fiona MacDonald, Phillip Boulten. Ruark Lewis thanks Nathaniel Tarn.


Links: www.yirrkala.com; https://www.daao.org.au/bio/version_history/ruark-lewis/personal_details/?revision_no=41

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Thanks to artist grants from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Visual Arts Boards of the Australia Council.



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Installation view, Barayuwa Mununggurr, Gadawulkwulk means Shelter, National Art School class, 2012
Installation view, Barayuwa Mununggurr, Gadawulkwulk means Shelter, National Art School class, 2012 Installation view, Barayuwa Mununggurr, Gadawulkwulk means Shelter, National Art School class, 2012