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Aboriginal Art News

Aboriginal Art News is a free news resource to promote and encourage education of Australian Aboriginal art.

Submitted: Apr 10, 2010 - 7:10 PM
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  • Monstrous figures in Arnhem Land by on Sun, 04 May 2014 16:52:02 +1000:
    [b]There's some impressive writing going on at [i]The Conversation[/i]
    at present - and that's not only from the contributors, check out the feedback as well. The following is an excerpt from Christine Nicholls' latest, [i]Monstrous figures in Arnhem Land[/i]
    , the 5th part in a series which sheds light on Aboriginal Dreamings. [/b]

    As in the case of the desert regions, the repertoire of monstrous figures in Arnhem Land in the wet tropical monsoon-prone far north of Australia, speaks to the inherent dangers of particular environments. This is also reflected in artworks and narratives.

    At one level, Yawk Yawks could be described as Antipodean mermaids – except for the fact that they are not benign. These fish-tailed maidens, young women Spirit Beings, with long flowing locks of hair comprised of green algae, live, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “lurk”, in the deep waterholes, rockholes and freshwater streams of Western Arnhem Land in particular.

    Children and young people particularly fear them, because they are believed to be capable of dragging people underwater and drowning them. Like most Aboriginal Spirits, they have the capacity to metamorphose, and can sometimes assume a presence on dry land, before morphing back into water spirits.

    There are a number of celebrated artist-exponents of Yawk Yawks in Arnhem Land, including Luke Nganjmirra, a Kunwinjku painter working from Injalak Arts & Crafts, Maningrida-based brothers Owen Yalandja and Crusoe Kurddal (carvers), the sons of the late Kuninjku ceremonial leader Crusoe Kuningbal (1922-1984), and Anniebell Marrngamarrnga (a weaver who fashions Yawk Yawk maidens from pandanus) who also works with the Maningrida Arts and Cultural centre.

    Also in Arnhem Land are Namorroddo Spirits.

    They have long claws and at night fly through the air, long hair streaming, to prey on human victims. Parents control children by cautioning them not to run around outside at night, particularly when there is a high wind, which echoes the sound that the Namorroddos make as they whistle and swish though the night sky, their skeletal bodies held together only by thin strips of flesh.

    Namorroddos are somewhat akin to vampires, in that they suck out their human victims’ life juices, after killing them first by sinking their long sharp claws into them. In turn, their victims are also transformed into Namorroddos.

    And sorcerers abound, none more feared than the Dulklorrkelorrkeng, genderless, or rather, capable of assuming the characteristics of either gender, malignant Spirit Beings with faces similar to those of flying foxes, and that eat poisonous snakes with relish - to no ill effect.

    Dulklorrkelorrkeng are known to go around with a whip snake tied to their thumbs, and they live in forests that have no ground water. In many respects they resemble the Namande spirits of western Arnhem Land. The late Arnhem Land artist Lofty Bardayal Nadjamarrek, of the Kundedjinjenghmi people, was esteemed as possibly the greatest living limner of the sorcerer-spirit Dulklorrkelorrkeng.

    This account given here barely touches the surface of this vast topic. It points nevertheless to the extensive reach of Aboriginal Dreamings, culture, and visual art, which have the capacity to portray every aspect of human life, and the lives of other species too.

    Ultimately, these Monstrous Beings and their narratives serve a critically important social function that contributes to the maintenance of life: that of instilling into young and old alike a healthy respect and commensurate fear of the specific dangers, both environmental and psychic, in particular places.

    [url=" rel="nofollow" target="_blank][i]Read the whole article at The Conversation[/i]

    [b]About Christine Nicholls[/b]

    Dr Christine Nicholls is a writer, curator and Senior Lecturer in Australian Studies at Flinders University. She is well published in the fields of visual art, linguistics, and education (particularly Indigenous Australian languages and Indigenous Australian artistic practice, as well as Indigenous education) and has published more than twelve books, all of which have won significant prizes (for example,[url=] Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place, co-written with Ian North, and published by Wakefield Press,[/url]
    and one of the earliest publications in the SALA series, won The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand publication Prize for the Best Visual Art Book published in the region, in 2001).

    Among Christine’s more recent publications is the framing essay [url=]Painting Alone in Yulyurlu: Lorna Fencer Napurrurla, published by Wakefield Press[/url]
    in 2011, and EarthWorks, and overview of the history of Indigenous Australian ceramics, which is accompanied by a book that she has written on that history of Indigenous ceramics.
  • by on Tue, 29 Apr 2014 15:39:50 +1000:
    The Daly River community (Nauiyu), 240 kilometres south-west of Darwin, celebrates the 27th Merrepen Arts and Culture Festival from Friday 30 May to Sunday 1 June, with a weekend of traditional and contemporary performance, colourful designs, fashion and fabrics, art sale, exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, music from Top End bands, tasty camp fire bush tucker and a three day Sports Carnival.

    This year’s highlight is the premiere of a multi-layered fashion and cultural production, [i]Ngan’giwetimbi Dememarrgu – Old Stories New Ways[/i]
    , which connects generations of ancestral stories to the Nauiyu artists of today, showing how ancient and modern techniques have been incorporated into their art, textiles and designs.

    "Ngan’giwetimbi is our connection to our ancestors. We are always listening to the old stories the ancestors are telling us and passing these stories to our new generation. Our stories have been told and passed on for thousands of generations. We are now telling these old stories in a new and modern way. Even though we are here in the community, we are still spiritually connected to our ancestors," says Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM, community Elder

    Invited guests from the Gulf Country, [i]The Red Flag Dhumbala Dancers[/i]
    , will perform the rights and rituals of [i]The Dhumbala[/i]
    (red cloth introduced through contact with Macassan sailors) and Gary Lang’s [i]NT Dance Company[/i]
    presents an exclusive excerpt of the story of [i]Mokuy - the spirit that passed over[/i]
    , told through intricate and moving contemporary ballet.

    Nauiyu artists are renowned for their beautiful designs and young Daly River community members will unveil the latest range in a unique performance choreographed by rising Torres Strait fashionista, Grace Lillian Lee. Grace previously worked with some of the artists in 2013 and their collaborative creativity overwhelmed audiences at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Presents. This year’s major fashion event includes commentary, song men, projections and movement.

    [i]Fog Dreaming[/i]
    , the print by renowned painter Marita Sambono, gained global attention when it was chosen for the outfit that won the Fashions in the Field Award at last year’s Melbourne Cup. Here’s your chance to be a winner and pick a fabulous fabric first!

    Then after the performance it’s time to let loose to music in the moonlight with dancing in the sand to Ngukurr’s Mambali Band and Yilila from Numbulwar.

    Tickets for [i]Ngan’giwetimbi Dememarrgu - Old Stories New Ways[/i]
    are $20 Adults, $10 concessions and under 18’s free, available at the gate on Saturday 31 May.

    [u]Merrepen Arts Fabrics[/u]

    A delightful collaboration which began two years ago between textile artist, practising printmaker and screen printer, Bobbie Ruben and the Nauiyu artists, has produced screen printed textiles that are gaining new fame for the community.

    Based on traditional artwork, these stunning contemporary fabrics make more than a fashion statement as they translate to homewares and upholstery. All the fabrics are gone almost as soon as they are printed, inspiring the artists to create new and colourful designs, many of which will be seen for the first time at the festival.

    Fabric designs are based on the crocodile, lotus pods, fish net weavings, coolamons, Merrepen palms, birds and fish. Each has an old story that is significant for its artist. A fabric based on the patterns of the crocodile’s skin by Aaron McTaggart, has been especially commissioned as lining for the elegant and exclusive di Croco accessories range. As are Dilly bags woven by Merrepen women with crocodile skin trim.

    [u]Art Sale[/u]

    Merrepen artists are renowned for their colourful and decorative paintings, fine art prints, mats and baskets inspired by the animals and the natural beauty of the Daly River Region. The annual Art Sale is hugely successful and showcases established and emerging artists who have worked tirelessly throughout the year for this event. This year, works will be available for purchase throughout the entire weekend from 10.00am.


    As well as traditional Aboriginal dance which is integral to Old Stories New Ways on Saturday night, dance groups from other cultures will perform during the afternoons - The Sunameke Pacific Island Dance Group and Xango Capoeira Brazilian Martial Arts Troupe will amaze with their music, rhythms and acrobatics.

    [u]Exhibitions, Demonstrations, Talks & Workshops[/u]

    The Merrepen Arts Centre Textiles Exhibition with a new range of screen printed fabrics and John Tsialos’ photographs of life in the community are something to behold and open at 10.00am Saturday.

    ‘Fi’ weaving workshops, didgeridoo, spear, clap sticks and boomerang demonstrations, bush tucker tastings and talks on producing textiles, traditional hunting patterns and fire making methods, run through the weekend.

    [u]Book Launch[/u]

    Sunday’s launch of [i]Ngan’gi Plants and Animals[/i]
    by Glenn Wightman and Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM is the result of a 25-year collaboration between the renowned Territory ethno-biologist and elders within the community.

    They have recorded traditional knowledge about the names, uses and stories of the plants and animals of this country, which has unique and rich biodiversity.

    Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri plant and animal knowledge is embedded in landscapes, sacred sites, songs, ceremonies, Dreamtime stories and humans. We created this book to consolidate Ngan’gi biocultural knowledge into the future and ensure that it is preserved for all time.
    Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart AM

    [u]Sports Carnival[/u]

    Three days of football, softball and basketball kick off at 8.00am on Friday 30 May for the Sports Carnival, with teams from around the region, converging on the community for high energy thrills in the spirit of outback competition.


    Nauiyu is in Big River Country, an idyllic and accessible community nestled in a valley amongst billabongs, hills and the majestic Daly River. Life echoes the rhythms of the river as it floods across the vast plains and abates, feeding the spirits, animals and plants of the vast flood plains with an abundant supply of bush tucker.

    [i]Fog Dreaming – Dagum[/i]
    sites are small springs and holes in the ground on the edge of the floodplains where steam or fog comes off the warm water below. They are surrounded by Spring Pandanus and Pink Apple Trees. The fog wafts around these trees especially in the cool of the morning during the cold weather of the mid Dry season. These sites have special spiritual significance for Ngen’giwumirri people, especially for artist Marita Sambono as it was one of her deceased grandmother’s dreamings, and they are found on her traditional country. The design image on the Fashion on the Field outfit captures the movement of the fog and the spiritual danger associated with coming close to it.


    Nauiyu is easily accessibly on sealed road 240 kms south west of Darwin. Drive to Adelaide River on the Stuart Highway, turn right on to Dorat Road, and after 30 kms turn right again onto Daly River Road. The festival will be signposted. There are a number of tourist parks throughout the area offering a variety of accommodation options, best to book early. There is no camping available in the community.

    In May and June, the days are warm and sunny and the nights can be very cool. You will need to bring appropriate clothing such as light clothes, hats and sun protection for the day, warm clothing for the evenings. You should also bring medicines, insect repellent and drinking water. Food and fuel supplies are limited within the community.

    Merrepen Arts Festival has been a popular and successful Territory iconic event for 27 years. With the recent launch of the new fabric range it has become even more sought after. This is your opportunity to buy the latest fabrics direct from the community, to meet the artists and see some of the places that inspire them. Don’t miss out!
  • Entries now open for the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards by on Sat, 26 Apr 2014 14:55:59 +1000:
    The Victorian Indigenous Art Awards (VIAA) celebrate the quality and diversity of art practice among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and the richness of Victoria's Indigenous arts and culture.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are invited to submit an entry. Entry is free and artists are eligible to enter up to three new works.

    The total prize pool is valued at over $50,000 across five categories, including the $30,000 Deadly Art Award:

    Deadly Art Award-$30,000

    CAL Award for Three Dimensional Works-$5,000

    CAL Award for Works on Paper-$5,000

    Australian Catholic University Acquisitive Award-$5,000

    Work based on spirituality and cultural tradition

    Federation University Australia Acquisitive Award-$5,000

    Work by an artist based in regional Victoria

    Arts Victoria People's Choice Award-$2,500

    [url=]To register online[/url]
    , you will need:

    Images for each artwork to be entered, ensuring that the images are named: Artist last name_Initial_Artwork title_.jpg (saved as .jpg up to 2Mb each)

    An up-to-date artists resume, including recent and/or significant exhibition and arts related work history. (saved as a .doc .docx or .pdf)

    A biographical summary about yourself for inclusion in the catalogue (80-100 words)

    An extended biographical statement including a summary of your artistic practice (80-500 words)

    Statements for each artwork (100-500 words) (these statements will be taken into account in the shortlisting process)

    Entries close Thursday 12 June.

    Further information please call 03 5320 5858.
  • Danie Mellor: Exotic Lies Sacred Ties by on Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:39:51 +1000:
    A decade of artwork by leading contemporary Indigenous artist Danie Mellor is the focus of a major survey exhibition opening at TarraWarra Museum of Art on May 10, on tour from The University of Queensland Art Museum.

    The exhibition brings together more than 50 of the artist’s key works drawn from public collections, including the UQ Art Museum, Australian Museum, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Bathurst Regional Gallery and private collections.

    It is the first large scale exhibition to consider in depth how Mellor has contributed to contemporary Australian art in a range of styles and media, and our understanding of Australia’s colonial past.

    Mellor’s choice of a wide range of media, which includes intricate combinations of pastel, pencil, glitter, Swarovski crystal and watercolour on paper and sculptural installations that combine mosaic, taxidermy animals, gold leaf, neon and found objects, is integral to a conceptual understanding of his work.

    Exhibition Curator Maudie Palmer AO says the survey invites engagement with Australia’s shared and contested histories through core themes in Mellor’s work. “His visual narrative relies on manipulating British imagery from the 18th and 19th centuries, specifically iconography borrowed from blue and white Spode china, which he layers with his own record of the cultural differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia,” Ms Palmer says.

    Mellor was born in Mackay in 1971, has lived variously in Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa and now resides in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He maintains strong links to his mother’s Country in the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland as a descendent of her Scottish, Irish and Indigenous heritage of Mamu and Ngagen rainforest people with connections to the Jirrbal.

    The exhibition is timely, following Mellor’s inclusion in several significant exhibitions in recent years, including Story place: Indigenous art of Cape York and the rainforest at the Queensland Art Gallery (2003), both National Indigenous Art Triennials, Culture warriors and undisclosed, at the National Gallery of Australia (2007 and 2012), and Sakahàn: 1st international quinquennial of new Indigenous art, at the National Gallery of Canada (2013).

    TarraWarra Museum of Art Director, Victoria Lynn, says, “The work of Danie Mellor introduces us to many intriguing worlds drawn from indigenous history, 19th century imagery and the landscape of spirits. The artist invites us on a journey through these intricate, delicate and magical scenes. This exhibition provides the first opportunity for our audiences in Victoria to consider the work of Danie Mellor in depth”.

    A new publication supported by a grant from the Gordon Darling Foundation and featuring full-colour reproductions of all the works has been produced for the exhibition (RRP $33). A free Learning Resource will also accompany the exhibition, and will be available to download from the UQ Art Museum website.
  • Desert Song and the Pike Family by on Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:36:40 +1000:
    There are two very worthwhile exhibitions on in the West right now, and if you're not able to make it the good folks there have also reproduced these exhibitions online: [i]Desert Song[/i]
    and the [i]Pike Family[/i]

    The first exhibition, [i]Desert Song[/i]
    , brings together 25 women artists from across the Western and Central Desert artists including Esther Giles Nampitjinpa, Lorna Ward Napanangka, Walangkura Napanangka, Yinarupa Gibson Nangala, Ningura Napurrula, Eileen Napaltjarri and Minnie Pwerle. It looks at the links between Indigenous Art and the associated Culture and Stories of the ancient 'Songlines' of Australia and how they inform the remarkable paintings on display in this breathtaking and informative exhibition of Indigenous paintings from all around Australia.

    Running alongside this exhibition is the very interesting, [i]Pike Family[/i]

    Jimmy Pike (1940-2002) was a great story-teller and illustrator of the traditional lifestyle as he experienced it, living as a young man with his family in the Great Sandy Desert. As a teenager he followed most of his countrymen who had begun moving north into cattle station country (the Fitzroy Valley). They had heard of the abundant food and water there, and the desert was steadily being depopulated as the northward migration of families continued.

    During the '90s, Jimmy Pike became a very well-known artist; he was a prolific drawer (using multi-coloured felt pens), a painter, a printmaker, and a designer for textiles and silk goods. His stories of the desert thus became everyday items in wider Australia.

    It's interesting to note that the organising gallery of this exhibition, Japingka, which had a 30-year association with Jimmy Pike and his family, was so named because of a site in the Great Sandy Desert where the Walmajarri people, including Jimmy Pike’s clan, came together. It was during the dry season that the people followed the movements of animals or the flowering of bush plants to find places of greatest food supply, moving between waterholes in small family groups so as not to drain the resources. It was during the northern cyclone season when the storms would roll into the desert that these waterholes would be replenished, and the land revived.

    Usually around Christmas, when there was enough food and water for all the people to be in one place, they would come together and manage all social and marital business, and carry out ceremonies and rituals. Relatives would meet each other after a year's absence, so it was a time of great significance.

    In the desert waterholes need to be maintained and land needs to be managed by patchwork burning. As the population dwindled from people leaving the desert, the land itself became less productive, the waterholes were covered over with drifting sand and the larger animals disappeared. The time-honoured balance between man and the land was interrupted.

    Thirty years after his family left the desert, Jimmy Pike began recording his memories in paintings and in books written with his wife, Pat Lowe. He painted for about 22-years and his artworks were represented in major collections, both nationally and internationally.

    At the time of Jimmy Pike’s death, his brother Edgar Pike began painting some works at his small community at Ngumpan. Edgar was about 5 or 6 years younger than Jimmy, and said that he remembered fewer stories of his family life in the desert. But the great oral tradition of the desert life was compelling, and the people had begun making journeys back into the old country, revisiting the sacred sites and major waterholes. Edgar Pike’s paintings recorded some of the major sites that his brother had been painting previously.

    Edgar Pike’s daughter, Francine Steele developed into a skilled artist in her own right and although early in her career, her paintings are distinctive and impressive.

    Jimmy Pike began his career in Fremantle before the Japingka Gallery was formed, his first drawings and limited edition prints were created in the early 1980s.

    Now the artworks of Edgar and Francine are brought together with Jimmy Pike's, and include Jimmy's rare prints and silk scarves.

    See the Exhibitions online at Japingka [url=]Desert Song[/url]
    and the [url=]Pike Family[/url]
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