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© John Mawurndjul/Licenced by Viscopy, 2017

River whale shark

Date: 1989
Dimensions:
Overall: 195 x 2330 x 230 mm, 30.5 kg
Medium: Ochre on wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © John Mawurndjul
Classification:Art
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00005795
Place Manufactured:Maningrida

User Terms

    Description
    This sculpture, carved from a single piece of elongated wood, is an example of a carved representation of a totemic animal typical of those used in northeastern Arnhem Land in ceremonial cycles. The surface designs are either clan design or relate to aspects of the myth in which the carved figure occurs.
    The colours used are natural ochres mixed with a commercial fixative and feature in a surface pattern of extensive cross hatching [rarrk] and dot decoration.
    John Mawandjul was born in 1952 in Mumeka, 50 kilometers south of Maningrida. He led a very traditional early life and was taught painting in the late 1970's by his elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma and his uncle Peter Marralwaga. Over the following decade John Mawurndjul developed his own style and became a highly recognised artist outside his community.
    Language group: Kunwinjku / (Eastern Kunwinjku).
    Moiety: Duwa or Dhuwa.
    Subsection: Balang (Mawaurndjul).
    Clan: Kurulk.
    Region: South Central Arnhem Land.
    Community: Maningrida.
    Residence: Mumeka, Milimilngkan.
    Arts centre: Maningrida Arts and Culture.
    SignificanceRiver Whale Shark is an example of a carved representation of a totemic animal typical of those used in northeastern
    Arnhem Land in ceremonial cycles. The surface designs are either clan design or relate to aspects of
    the myth in which the carved figure occurs.
    John Mawurndjul is one of the leading Indigenous Australian artists, receiving world recognition for his work. Kuninjku bark painter and sculptor he was born in 1952 at Mumeka, an important camping site for members of the Kurulk clan.
    HistoryToday, along the coast of Arnhem Land, carvings of birds, animals and fish as well as ancestral heroes are made by many artists. This sculpture is an example of a carved representation of a totemic animal typical of those used in northeastern Arnhem Land in ceremonial cycles. The surface designs are either clan design or relate to aspects of the myth in which the carved figure occurs.

    "John Mawurndjul's work has always dealt with themes of spirituality, mythology and life cycle. Ngalyod [River Serpent] has remained a central theme in his work but over the last few years he has concentrated on what appear to be more abstract works associated with the Mardayin ceremony, a now rarely performed ceremony with clan identity and mortuary themes. The Mardayin ceremony also involves the initiation of young men by showing them sacred objects and painting their chests.
    The direction of the cross-hatching changes constantly and unpredictably. In innovating both in the treatment of rarrk and in the iconic representation of the Mardayin themes, he expresses in a dynamic way his strong connections to the land and ancestral power. His sculptural work also incorporates Mardayin themes. He mainly concentrates on the representation of Mimih figures or Duwa moiety female creator beings called Buluwana. They comprise in their body decorations elements borrowed from Mardayin body designs and painted wooden sculptures used in the ceremony. He was one of the first Kuninjku artists to use rarrk instead of dotting patterns on his Mimih carvings, making again the path for a new trend in Kuninjku art.
    Always looking for new ways to express his preoccupations with land and spirituality he summarizes his artistic quest by saying My head is full up with ideas (Kohen: 2001) . "
    - Maningrida Arts & Culture

    "My work and my rarrk (cross-hatching) have changed a lot since I started painting a long time ago [late 1970s]. That was with my brother [Jimmy Njiminjuma] and together, we have changed the rarrk and started to paint in a new style. We are new people … Now, I concentrate on painting important places, my land, my djang [sacred places]. I paint the power of that land … I keep thinking, I keep finding new ways, new styles for my paintings. I just can’t stop thinking about my paintings.
    Mawurndjul’s representations of Mardayin and sites associated with his traditional country of Milmilngkan – on bark and hollow logs – have become increasingly refined in his expert use of rarrk. Mentored and inspired by great classical Kuninjku artists such as Peter Marralwanga (Mawurndjul’s wife, Kay, is Marralwanga’s daughter and an artist in her own right) along with Yirawala and his elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma, Mawurndjul’s artistic and cultural mastery was acknowledged when he was awarded the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award in 2003, and honoured in the solo exhibition Rärrk: John Mawurndjul journey through time in Northern Australia at the Museum Tinguely, Basel, in 2005."
    http://nga.gov.au/exhibition/niat07/Default.cfm?MnuID=2




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