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© Paddy Wainburranga Fordham/Licenced by Viscopy, 2017

Too Many Captain Cooks

Date: 1993
1020 x 380 mm, 1 mm, 6.8 kg
Image: 1020 x 380 mm
Display Dimensions: 1020 x 380 mm, 1 mm
Medium: Ochres, paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Paddy Wainburranga Fordham
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00017992

User Terms

    This artwork by Paddy Fordham Wainburranga is titled 'Too Many Captain Cooks' and tells the story of Badaparr, the custodian of the country who is likened to Captain James Cook, the explorer. Badaparr and the devil Lungi Ngyan (Ngayang Lunji) fought and the body of the devil was thrown, creating Sydney Harbour.
    Paddy Wainburranga was a recognized story teller, bark painter, sculpture, dancer, singer and musician. He also worked as a stockman and was actively involved in the Indigenous Land Rights movement of the 1970's.

    Skin Name: Wainburranga
    People: Rembarrnga
    Language: Rembarrnga, Mirraytja, Dhuwa Moiety
    Area: Beswick, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
    Dreaming: Rembarrnga mythologies - (mini spirits animals)
    Country: Bamdibu

    SignificanceThis painting by Paddy Wainburranga portrays Australian history from an Indigenous Australian perspective.Whilst it has been executed in a traditional style, the cross - cultural influence may be seen by the presence of a donkey and a goat (introduced animals), and by the fact that the devil Lungi Ngyan was thrown to create Sydney Harbour, rather than part of the Arnhem Land landscape.
    HistoryThe title of the painting comes from Paddy Wainburranga's belief that Australia has had many Captain Cook - like figures, both cultural and spiritual, in its history. In his explanation of the work, Wainburranga explains that the Captain Cook who he refers to is not just the explorer Captain Cook. Rather, the Rembarrnga people have had many Captain Cooks in their history but, it was only the explorer Captain Cook who brought over families who started to shoot Aboriginal people and change their lifestyle with material possessions.

    The painting is divided into two sections and depicts the history of Australia from the Rembarrnga perspective. The top section depicts a cultural and spiritual kind invading Australia. The custodian of Australia, a white man named Badaparr, is featured with a sword in his left hand. Badaparr is representative of the Mungingya (white) Captain Cook. Two women named Wamutjan and Galajan are depicted near Badaparr; one of the women is white and the other is black. The women represent Badaparr's wives. The clothes that appear hanging on a clothes line suggest that Badaparr was served well by his wives. The donkey and goat heads depicted in the painting indicate the nature of the work performed around the campsite and the milk and meat that were provided there. The bottom section features the image of the devil named Lungi Ngyan holding a magic bone. A flying seagull named Mudaka represents the existence of an island called Mosquito Island, known as the home of the Devil.

    The presence of mythological stories/figures is perhaps more highly developed in the work of Paddy Wainburranga than in many other contemporary artists, as he was brought up in the traditional manner. It was as a young boy that Wainburranga first saw white people. His education was a traditional one, and Wainburranga was an elder of the Rembarrnga tribe and taught singing, dancing and the law. Wainburranga's painting style is one which he learnt and inherited from his father and grandfather. It is the traditional style of his people, the Rambarranga of Arnhem Land. He commonly depicted spirit figures in his work and so 'Too Many Captain Cooks' is in line with this characteristic.

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