Napurrdhu Gurrupan dhuwal minytji – Sharing our designs and patterns

Schoolhouse Studios, Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts, with Plan International Australia presents:

Napurrdhu Gurrupan dhuwal minytji – Sharing our designs and patterns

Opening: Thursday 13th of June 2019, 6pm – 8pm
Dates: 14th June – 26th June, 2019
Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 3pm

In this exhibition, Yolŋu artists are sharing some of the designs and patterns from their homelands in East Arnhem land.

This exhibition comes from the land – from places like the Ganalbiŋu homeland of Ŋaliyindi near the Arafura Swamp, from the Wagilak homeland of Ŋilipitji near the Mitchell Ranges, from the Djambarrpuyngu places like Badaybaday in central Arnhemland and from the Maŋgalili homeland of Djarrakpi in Blue Mud Bay.

In the Waŋarr time, the time of creation, Ancestral beings travelled the land. As they went they created places, plants, animals, people, land forms, languages and law – weaving everything together

The Ancestors carried bathi (baskets) containing the things they needed to create the world and make the places perfect for the Yolŋu. They gave the sacred songs, designs and patterns for each place. Held in the songs and designs is the knowledge, language, and law that keep Yolŋu people, land, spirit, and all life, strong. Songlines criss-cross the land connecting everything, following and telling of the ancestral journeys and the names of the sacred places. Through ceremonies these songlines and journeys are performed and remade.

Yolŋu songs, designs and patterns contextualise both place and people. Each place has its own distinctive designs and patterns, its own ‘DNA’ that uniquely characterises and identifies it and the people that come from that place.  

Objects made from wood, fibre, string, ochre and other natural materials, decorated with clan design, are used in ceremony. Combined with song, dance and painted bodies the Ancestral stories are brought into the present. This is how Yolŋu record and share their knowledge and law.

Yolŋu have been sharing their art with non-Yolŋu since their arrival. The Yolŋu share their art because they want to be understood and not be left out through Balanda ignorance and greed. Sharing is natural and part of Yolŋu law.

The songs, dances, objects and designs used in ceremony are the inspiration for a myriad of contemporary expressions that are being made for sale in todays art galleries and market places.

Yolŋu say, ‘Yes come and share with us but do not push the Yolŋu aside, this is after all our home. We will learn your knowledge you can learn our knowledge’.

Djambuwa Marawili, Chair of ANKA (Aboriginal and Northern Kimberly Artists) and leader of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala explains:

“We are the archaeologists and anthropologists. Our elders are passing on traditional knowledge in Yolŋu and ancient Indigenous languages and university systems, which are still strong and real and rolling on. … We want Australians to properly understand that our traditionally grounded contemporary art is not principally about beautiful objects, but, with ancient patterns and designs, shares our living ancestral understanding and specific connection to Country.”

Concurrent with the exhibition Plan International Australia will be presenting a new initiative, commencing a collaboration with Aboriginal communities in East Arnhem Land. In a unique and ground-breaking partnership Plan will work alongside the Goŋ-Däl Aboriginal Corporation to make a transformative impact in the lives of girls, children, and families in Gapuwiyak and surrounding homelands.


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