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FIVE MIYALK FIVE WOMEN Dec 20 2012 - 10 Feb 2013 Sun Valley USA

Cover image: Nonggirringa Marawili, ‘Bathi’ (detail) 92 x 63cm Natural earth pigments on bark This page: Wanuwuy (Cape Arnhem)



FIVE MIYALK - FIVE WOMEN The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center is located in the remote community of Yirrkala on the north coast of Australia in a place called Arnhem Land. This is the home of the Yolgnu, the indigenous custodians of the land and its stories. The rich cultural and artistic traditions of the Yolgnu began as long as 40,000 years ago and their beautiful artworks carry forward important kinship relationships and sacred stories of creation.

This area of Australia feels like another world. Fresh and saltwater purposefully intertwine, red-ocher rocks nestle amongst vast beaches rich with sea life and fringed by dense stringybark forest. It is an unimaginable paradise. Here land and sea are connected in a single cycle of life for which the Yolngu hold the songs and designs. These spiritual forces govern the sacred designs behind the ongoing Creation and continuing identity of this unique region of Australia.

Miyalk - Five Women is the title chosen for this exhibition and in looking for the best translation into Yolngu matha, the language of the artists, we struck a conundrum. In Yolngu matha, the language of the artists, there is no translation for the number five. Impossible for a modern Westerner to contemplate - this is a world almost without numbers. But the incomprehension is mutual and reciprocated. How can we live without the matrix of kinship that connects every

element of the cosmos? That is the Yolngu question. One way of counting five is to adopt the means of calculating turtle eggs as they come out of the deep sandy hole their mother laid them in. The person counting is usually the equally clever Yolngu mother with a digging stick who has seen through the false trails and camouflage which the maternal turtle secreted them under. All of these five women artists have the knowledge to find a football-sized cache of eggs hidden somewhere four feet under the sand in an area the size of a tennis court. As the kids gather around, and little hands want to snatch, order is required. Mum places four ping-pong ball sized eggs in a square formation and a fifth goes on top to make a pyramid. This number of 5 eggs is one ‘rulu’. Once the hundred plus eggs are removed into piles of five then the division can be made and feasting begins.

This exhibition brings to life the worlds of five senior artists. They are women representing different clans, moieties and life cycles. Yet a commonality exists within their resloute and unwavering artistic hands. Five hunters and five artists, together they are Five Miyalk - Five Women.

Harvey Art Projects USA gratefully acknowledges the support from Will Stubbs, Kade McDonald and the five artists contributing to this first time USA exhibition.

Left: Barrupu Yunupingu “Gurtha” 178 x 97 cm Natural earth pigments on bark Right: Nonggirrnga Marawili “Larrakitj” (Ceremonial poles) 150 x 152 x 155 cm Natural Earth pigments on hollow logs

Left: Naminapu-Maymuru White ‘Wayin’ (detail) 133 x 55 x 38cm Natural earth pigments on carved Beach Hibiscus, Stringybark & White-flowered Black Mangrove Right: Malaluba Gumana ‘Dhatam’ (detail) 30 x 17 cm Natural earth pigments on bark

Left: Wolpa Wanambi ‘Yanawal’ (detail) 153 x 59 cm Natural earth pigments on bark Right: Wolpa Wanambi ‘Djerrka’ (detail) 194 cm Natural earth pigments on hollow log

NONGGIRRNGA MARAWILI Nonggirnga is the matriarch of a large clan of Yolngu people: her sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, sons in-law and daughters in-law and whatever English people call the spouses of ones grandchildren. In Yolngu matha these terms are well known and often used. They live between Yirrkala, Wandawuuy, Birany Birany, Gangan and Yilpara which are the homelands of the Madarrpa, Gumatj, Dhalwangu And Djapu clans which form the matrix of her kinship focii. They go to ceremony, they make a living, they argue, they live as one but when things are good they go hunting. The troopy loads up and then disgorges up to twenty people and they head off in different directions depending on taste and talent. Some for oysters, some to spear fish, some to gather firewood or pandanus, some to go through the mangroves to get crabs. But some sit by the fire and tend it and cook and chat and sleep and mind kids. At the end of the day all will reconvene to eat stingray pate, mudcrabs, smoked oysters, magpie goose, cow, wallaby, brolga, tuna or crayfish and drink cups of tea, eat the damper cooked on the coals with lashings of bush honey or condensed milk. These are the precious times of family content and happy joking and teasing. A series of paintings Nonggirrnga completed in 2012 grew from this experience. She started by painting stringwoven dillybags and then added the women going hunting to collect the Darranggurrk (Kurrajong bark) to make the string. Then a dog or two or a husband with a spear and eventually a tea cup found its way into the theme.

BARRUPU YUNUPINGU Barrupu is a daughter of the Gumatj clan patriarch Munggurrawuy Yunupingu. Her siblings include Australians of the Year, Galarrwuy and Mandawuy and Gulumbu Telstra First Prize Winner. Barrapu has always lived at Yirrkala. Her closest sister is Nyapanyapa with whom she has worked as a print artist through Buku-Larrnggay since 1996. Barrupu reveals sacred ancestral knowledge through her artistic practice, as her fiery nature and unique style explodes onto the bark, transforming it into a powerful and important artwork. As Will Stubbs (Coordinator, Buku Larrnggay Mulka Artists, NT) writes: “The Gumatj clan sacred design which Barrupu Yunupingu paints is gurtha or fire. But not just any fire. This is a Fire of supernatural intensity. So powerful that it transforms the land it touched for all time. Its identity is etched into every atom of Gumatj land. More accurately, the identity of the land holds the memory of The Fire. This design is sacred because it reveals a hidden secret. After all the trees have grown back and the living witnesses have died there will be no outward sign of such a cataclysm. But long after that the land still remembers; its DNA permanently altered. The incomprehensible power of that fire is burnt into the land forever though all else is healed. It is important to remember. Fire is also domesticity and the hearth, light, warmth, cooked food, security. The flaming tongues are a language of creativity and truth and the sparks are offspring and generative. But this design keeps alight the memory of that unimaginable fire to dwarf all other fires.


Naminapu Maymuru-White began helping her fathers, Narritjin and Nanyin paint their bark paintings and sculptures in their bark shelter on the beach at Yirrkala in about 1964 when she was twelve years old. Amongst the law she learnt over her long apprenticeship was the cycle of the Manggalili clan spirit which lies within the Milngiyawuy River (which correlates to the Milky Way in an astral dimension) before and after its mortal existences. In 2012 she invented a new form of sculpture. Placing small carved birds - usually Guwak (Koel Cuckoo- sacred to her Mangalili clan) or Nerrk (Sulphur Crested Cockatoos) or Natili (black Cockatoo) carved from Malwan (Beach Hibiscus) upon trees made from Gadayka (Stringybark) or Dakul (White-Flowered Black Mangrove).

MALALUBA GUMANA Malaluba the daughter of Gumuk Gumana & is a very fine exponent of marwatthe cross hatching technique using a ‘hair brush’. Malaluba’s paintings in this exhibition refer to her mother’s Galpu clan designs of Dhatam (waterlilly), Djari (rainbow), Djaykun (fire-snake) and Wititj (olive python). The story of Wititj is a story of storms & monsoons; it has particular reference to the mating of Wititj during the beginning of the wet season when Djarrwa (square shaped thunderclouds) form & lightening strikes. This imagery is perhaps the oldest continuous human religious iconographical practice - the story of the Rainbow Serpent. Estimates vary from 40,000-6,000 years of depictions of the Rainbow Serpent in rock shelters.

WOLPA WANAMBI Wolpa Wanambi is the youngest daughter of one of the best known Yolngu artists of the 1980s Dundiwuy Wanambi (1936-1996) and learned to paint under his instruction. Wolpa assisted in all of the major works produced by her father during the 1990s including the work that received the 1994 NATSIAA award for Best Bark Painting and the Wagilag carvings (1995-96) in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Dundiwuy was one of the main collaborators with Ian Dunlop - the Yirrkala Film Project - which captured the onset of the era of industrialised Bauxite mining that prompted the Homeland Movement away from Yirrkala. In 1996, the year of his death, Dundiwuy stated that a major bark was painted entirely by Wolpa, under his instruction, and was to be be formally attributed to her. In 2000, Wolpa won the National Indigenous Heritage Art Award First Prize. She is a slow and and patient artist working in with extraodinary intricacy. Her topic is almost exclusively the country around Trial Bay. Her sisters and brother occasionally produced work but she is the true holder of her fathers legacy. Her paintings in this exhibition are about Wuyal, the ancestral sugarbag man, an important ancestor of the Marrakulu clan of North East Arnhem Land. The designs refer also to the continuation of the Marrakulu culture in dance, song and ceremony, which are performed by current generations who have inherited this knowledge and culture from ancestoral figures such as Wuyal. This story refers also to important Dhuwa moiety ancestors called the Wawilak sisters.

FIVE MIYALK - FIVE WOMEN 20 Dec 2012 - 10 Feb 2013 391 1st Avenue North Ketchum, ID 83340 USA (208) 309-8676 Copyright Buku-Larrnggay Mulka & Harvey Art Projects 2012


Five Miyalk, Five Women artists of Buku Larrnggay Mulka arts from the Northern Territory of Australia


Five Miyalk, Five Women artists of Buku Larrnggay Mulka arts from the Northern Territory of Australia