Joe Dhamanydji is the youngest son of renowned artist and Gupapuyŋu cultural leader Tom Djäwa. Djäwa was at the forefront of the contemporary art movement that flourished on Yurrwi (Milingimbi) in the 1950s. Yurrwi was Djäwa’s märi (mother’s mother) ancestral country and a ceremonial meeting ground for his paternal Gupapuyŋu clan. Djäwa’s homeland was on the mainland at Djiliwirri, east of Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island). In the 1920s, Djäwa and a Wangurri man named Harry Makarrwala led their people through the transition of the establishment of the Milingimbi Mission. Djäwa was the voice of the community at the Village Council meetings and was elected Chairperson. Two Yolŋu interpreters, Burrumarra, a Warramiri man and Barraltja, a Wangurri man, interpreted between Djäwa and Mission staff so that they could communicate.
Dhamanydji remembers sitting at the camp fire with his father and other family and children. Here, Djäwa would often share the story of the time that he travelled to Toowoomba to meet Queen Elizabeth and perform buŋgul (ceremony) with his fellow Gupapuyŋu clanspeople.
Dhamanydji grew up at Yurrwi and attended the Mission school there. As a school-age boy he watched Gupapuyngu men and their yindipulu (the extended family of his patrilineal clan) make their master ochre-on-bark artworks under the shade of the tamarind trees at Ŋarawunhdhu (bottom camp).
Dhamanydji was taught to paint his Gupapuyŋu clan miny’tji (designs) by his older brother, Dr. Joe Gumbula; he also has permission to paint some designs belonging to other clans and is respected for his extensive knowledge of these. Since becoming a recognised contemporary artist his artworks have been collected by institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Dhamanydji was inspired by his brother’s work as a researcher and academic and has himself contributed valued cultural knowledge to a number of national collections, including those of the Berndt Museum (University of Western Australia, Perth), Macleay Museum (University of Sydney), Art Gallery of NSW (Sydney), Museum Victoria (Melbourne) and the National Museum of Australia (Canberra).
‘Many of my father’s and other old people’s paintings have been kept in the museum for a long, long time. We need to find these paintings because many have been mixed up with different names. I worry if we don’t put the right name and clan, the connections between the people and stories won’t make sense in the future.
My brother Dr Joe Gumbula was a researcher at many universities and museums. He picked me and my brothers Michael Muŋguḻa and George Milaypuma to work with him. We haven’t lost our miny’tji because we are still making them at the art centre and for ceremony in Milingimbi.
I have travelled to museums in Darwin, Sydney, Canberra, Queensland, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. And still there is a lot of work to do to make sure meaning is not lost.’ – Dhamanydji, 2019
Dhamanydji continues to live in Yurrwi and to uphold his Gupapuyŋu Law through gamunuŋgu (painting), manikay (song) and buŋgul (ceremony). He is a senior leader for his Gupapuyŋu clan.
Artworks By Joe Dhamanydji
Djambarrpuyŋu miny’tji (Djambarrpuyŋu body paint design)$150.00
Birrkuḏa Galinyin – Balanda crown ga Yolngu crown$900.00
Birrkuḏa Galinyin – Balanda crown ga Yolngu crown$1,200.00
Manburi birrinmal ga guku (cat fish bones and native honey)$120.00
Lumbalumba ga Guku (emu and native honey)$120.00
Manburi Birrinymal (catfish bones)$650.00
Djiliwirri Guku (Djiliwirri native honey body paint design)$750.00
Guku Galinyin (native bee hive) – Gupaypuyŋu body paint design$850.00