George Milaypuma was inspired to share his culture through artwork firstly by watching his father, Gupapuyngu leader, Djawa. Djawa lead all aspects of the Milingimbi Community in the 1950’s including the highly respected and productive group of artist’s whose work was quickly collected by national and international institutions and collectors. Milaypuma says, ‘It is important to follow my fathers footsteps… our culture has been here for a long time and we need it to keep going.’ Djawa painted the complexities of Gupapuyngu law and ceremony with ochre on eucalyptus bark however it is Djawa’s stories of Mokuy Murayana that captured Milaypuma’s imagination.
Mokuy are ancestral beings that often feature in stories about the creation of Country, law and ceremony. Mokuy Murayana is a specific figure that is known for his lust for the most beautiful sounding yidaki (didgeridoo).
Milaypuma explains that he ‘went another way’ to his father, meaning that he does not paint onto bark but carves the Mokuy figures. These are made from cottonwood and are painted with ochre, their chests are decorated with Gupapuyngu clan designs. These are the same designs that Djawa painted onto the surface of bark and that all Gupapuyngu men, past and present, paint onto the chest of young boys during ceremony. These designs are inseparable from Gupapuyngu manikay (song) and bunggul (dance).
It is important to Milaypuma that his clan designs and law continue to capture the imagination of children as they grow and become adults. Milaypuma makes his work at home but is excited that all the djamarrkuli (children) get to see his work and remember the story for Mokuy Murayana when they visit the art centre.
George Milaypuma also worked for the Crocodile Islands Rangers as a Cultural Adviser since 2013.