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© Crusoe Kurddal/Licenced by Viscopy, 2017


Date: 1995
Overall: 940 x 140 x 100 mm, 6.3 kg
Medium: Ochre, Kurrajong wood (Brachychiton diversifolius)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Crusoe Kurddal
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00027356
Related Place:Maningrida,

User Terms

    A Yawkyawk is similar in form to a mermaid, with the body of a woman and the tail of a fish. This Yawkyawk sculpture by Crusoe Kurddal was made from a long, slender Kurrajong wood pole, and featurs a carved front and rounded back. Depicting a Yawk Yawk that lives in a billabong at Barrihdjowkkeng, the figure's torso is carved flat with raised breasts and arms, and is painted in ochres with a white and black coloured dot pattern.

    Kurddal carves Yawkyawk figures for ceremonial purposes as well as for sale. He is motivated by what he sees as their strong ability to be understood by non-Indigenous people, unlike much of his paintings which are highly symbolic and of a restricted ceremonial nature.
    SignificanceThe Yawkyawk Dreaming is part of a major female creation story. Kurddal, in the act of carving and painting the Yawkyawk, has performed a ritual, inscribing ancestral events onto the sculpture. At the time of this work's acquisition in 1996 Kurddal was one of only three men able to tell this story.

    HistoryA Yawkyawk, shown here as a mermaid, is a water spirit associated with the daughter of the original creator, Yingarna, the Rainbow Serpent. The daughter's name is Ngalkunburruyaymi, but she is also often referred to as Yawkyawk, meaning young girl. The Yawkyawks that form part of Crusoe Kurddal's Dreaming live in a creek off the Liverpool River at a place called 'Dreaming Ladies'. Small creatures in the water, similar in appearance to the larvae of the dragon flies, are the visible form of these spirits who metamorphose and fly away, and at other times walk on land.

    Yawkyawk stories are told around the camp fire at night. Their exploits are often used as a means of reinforcing good behaviour by exposing the scandalous activities of these beings and the dreadful things that happen to them as a result. Parents use the presence of Yawkyawks in the surrounding bush to stop children straying too far.

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