Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that the following pages may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.

Baratjala – Lighting and the Rock

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili

Earth pigments on Stringybark

82cm x 72cm

2014

Noŋgirrŋa started life as one of the numerous children of Mundukul the Madarrpa warrior (c.1890-c.1950). He was a famed leader/warrior with uncountable wives of the Marrakulu, Dhudi Djapu and Galpu clans. She was a child of one of the four Galpu wives, Buluŋguwuy. Life was a bountiful but disciplined subsistence amongst a working family group of closely related mothers, brothers and sisters.This was over fifty people! She was born on the beach at Darrpirra north of Cape Shield on the oceanside. But they were Wakir’ – camping- moving around. They went to Yilpara. They went to Djarrakpi. But their special place was Guwaŋarripa (Woodah Island). They were a fleet of canoes travelling all the way to Groote Island and back and forth from the mainland. They lived in this rich place. Their special spot on the mainland was Baratjula. A place to which she only returned after the creation of these paintings.   Baratjula is a Madarrpa clan estate adjacent to Cape Shield where the artist camped with her father and his many wives as a young girl. It is of the essence of Madarrpa but does not hold the high order sites that Yathikpa does. She lived nomadically as part of a clan group with a flotilla of canoes between Groote Eyelandt and the mainland. Her father’s name was Mundukul (Lightning Snake) and this is also the name of the serpent (also known as Water Python, Burrut’tji or Liasis Fuscus) which lives deep beneath the sea here. These are cyclonic, crocodile infested waters with huge tides and ripping currents and she is part of them.   Some of the designs show the rock set in deep water between the electric ‘curse’ that the snake spits into the sky in the form of lightning, and the spray of the sea trying to shift the immovable rock foundation of the Madarrpa. Yurr’yunna is the word used to describe the rough waves overtopping the rock and the spray flying into the sky. It is said that the serpents ‘spit’ lightning- ‘guykthun’. The extended meaning of ‘guykthun’ though includes “make something sacred or taboo through saying magic words’. In our language we ‘swear’ an ‘oath’ which sanctifies the speech but both words can also mean to utter profanities. We also understand that ‘curse’ can mean bad language but also a spell. The Top End has one of the world’s greatest number of lightning strikes at this time of year. These works show the sanctifying words being spat across the sky in lightning form. The lightning’s sacred power hits the seaspray rising from where it has just smashed into the  rock. The energies captured in this painting are almost a match for those in the real life of a Top End Wet Season.   This journey from the sacred to the descriptive shifts in these works. She has reduced the Law to its elements unclothed in sacred design. Her identity cannot be separated from her art and so although she disavows any sacred intent the echo of miny’tji persists.

Ref: BUKU4813X

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Buku-Larrnggay Mulka

Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land. Located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the northeastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. Our primarily Yolŋu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.

Artists from Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka have won First Prize in the last two National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and featured in many cutting edge contemporary fine art exhibitions and Biennale both in Australia and overseas. Recent solo retrospectives and high profile multi media installations confirm the Centre’s reputation as an innovative and important artist collective. But the history of the art from this region goes back a long way.

In the 1960’s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolŋu-owned business to sell Yolŋu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that exhibits and sells globally.

Buku-Larrŋgay –  “the feeling on your face as it is struck by the first rays of the sun (i.e. facing East)

Mulka – “a sacred but public ceremony.”

In 1976, the Yolŋu artists established ‘Buku-Larrŋgay Arts’ in the old Mission health centre as an act of self-determination coinciding with the withdrawal of the Methodist Overseas Mission and the Land Rights and Homeland movements.

In 1988, a new museum was built with a Bicentennary grant and this houses a collection of works put together in the 1970s illustrating clan law and also the Message Sticks from 1935 and the Yirrkala Church Panels from 1963.

In 1996, a screen print workshop and extra gallery spaces was added to the space to provide a range of different mediums to explore. In 2007, The Mulka Project was added which houses and displays a collection of tens of thousands of historical images and films as well as creating new digital product.

Still on the same site but in a greatly expanded premises Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre now consists of two divisions; the Yirrkala Art Centre which represents Yolŋu artists exhibiting and selling contemporary art and The Mulka Project which acts as a digital production studio and archiving centre incorporating the museum.

The Centre recently opened an 8 unit accommodation and convention complex.

If you would like to visit our website it is at www.yirrkala.com

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