This series of ochre works on paper by Raymond Bulambula, Judy Lirririnyin and Margaret Matay are examples of the inspired and energetic artworks currently being produced by Milingimbi artists. Each work expresses Yolngu identity as belonging to an intricate kinship system that extends beyond the individual to everything within their environment.
Raymond Bulambula’s ‘Gapu Murnuk from Barrinyin’ works celebrate the coming together of elements. Bulambula describes gapu gamurray (saltwater) and gapu raping (fresh water) travelling from different directions, across different country. Bulambula speaks of various languages, songlines and identities that the gapu (water) assumes as it travels through the estates of clans. Bulambula slips between identifying his subject as gapu and people, as in Yolngu culture every element is represented in the kinship system, Bulambula does not simply identify as a saltwater man he is gapu gamurray.
As the gapu travels it brings with it the king tide. gapu gamurray and gapu raping meet and create something else, gapu murnuk. Gapu murnuk is celebrated for its wealth and abundance – ‘dharruwa ngata’ (lots of food including fish and crocodile eggs). In Yolngu ceremonies gapu murnuk often represents the interconnected relationships between; Yirritja and Dhuwa (the two sides of the Yolngu moiety), husband and wife and mother and son.
Judy Lirririnyin talks about her sister Margaret Matay’s work ‘Rain on the Trees;’ “It’s not just the rain in the trees, it’s in our ceremony, songs and dance. I have seen that rain in my country – it makes everything new. We have a ceremony for that Walitjan (rain). All songs and dreams come from that ceremony that we dance in the rain. People cry with that rain. We dance that rain. That paintings not just about the rain – its got everything in it; crying, dancing, ceremony, everything is there.” In the top half of Matay’s work the trees appear with rain dotted around them. The designs in the lower section represent the lighting and winds that prelude the rain.
Lirririnyin and Matay’s recent works revisit the designs and style of their father Binyinyuwuy. Binyinyuwuy’s intricate paintings were recently celebrated at the Art Gallery of New South Wales exhibition, ‘Art from Milingimbi: taking memories back.’
Bulambula’s recent style is a magnification of a detail that was traditionally a small section of a larger narrative work
The artworks shown above will be available from Woolloongabba Art Gallery in September 2017.