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The Program promotes Australian art globally, helping Australian artists reach new audiences.

They are Meditating: Bark Paintings from the MCA’s Arnott’s Collection

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)

Duration

14 Feb 2008 to 03 Aug 2008

Artists

North-Eastern and Central Arnhem Land: George Anaragayura, Charlie Anawudjara, Ray Baku, England Banggala, Jimmy Bapalindi, Jack Barriyalanga, Bob Bilinyara, Binyinyiwuy, Bob Bopani, Charlie Boyun, Alfred Gaymuniny Bukulatjpi, George Liwukang Bukulatjpi, Djoni Bunguwuy, David Datpugarri, Dawidi II, Jumbo Dawulinyera, Gungguyuma Dhamarrandji, Paddy Dhathangu, Djartjiwuy, Tom Djawa, Jimmy Djelminy, Djimbarrdjimbarruy, Peter Djumboi, Jack Gabarnabi, Larrtjanga Ganambarr, Tom Djunmal Garrawurra, Gimindjo, Birrikidji Gumana, Gawirrin Gumana, Charlie Gunbuna, Don Gundinga, Robin Guningbal, Mithinarri Gurruwiwi, Lipundja, Mick Magani, Harry Mahkarolla, David Daymirringu Malangi, Frank Malkorda, Nym Manalpuy, Jack Meritja Manbarrarra, Charlie Marabinyin, Roy Dadaynga Marika, Mathaman Marika, Mawalan Marika, Narritjin Maymuru, George Nulumba Milpurrurru, Jack Mirritji, Peter Mondjingu III, Bandaka Mununggurr, Mutitjpuy Mununggurr, Ray Munyal, Jack Myarka, Michael Ngalabiya, Fred Nganganharrilil, Roy Riwa, Peter Wadaymu, Walipuru, Mithili Wanambi, Yanggarriny Wunungmurra, Mungurrawuy Yunupingu, Tony Yuwati, eleven works by Unknown Artists
Western and South-Western Arnhem Land: Curly Bardkadubbu, Brisbane Gurumululu, Namerredje Guymala, Jimmy Jambalulu (Mulwirrkbirrk), Mick Kubarrku, Wally Mandarrk, Samuel Garnarradj Manggudja, Jimmy Midjawmidjaw, David Milaybuma, Peter Milidji, Dick Ngulangulei Murrumurru, Spider Namarikki Nabunu, Bardayal Lofty Nadjamerrek, Naiarmoul, Jimmy Nakkurridjdjilmi, Jimmy Kalarriya Namarnyilk, Bob Wanurr Namundja, January Namarndali Nangunyari, Bobby Barrdjaray Nganjmirra, Thompson Nganjmirra, Nipper, Samuel Wagbara, Willowra, Anchor Wurrkidj, Yirawala, seven works by Unknown Artists
Wadeye (Port Keats): Christopher Pugar, Unknown Artist
Tiwi Islands: Matthias Ullungarra, Unknown Artist

Co-Curators: Keith Munro (MCA) & Djon Mundine

about the exhibition

They are Meditating: Bark paintings from the MCA’s Arnott’s Collection showcased over 200 rare and significant Aboriginal bark paintings from the late 1960s to the early 1980s held in the MCA Collection. Co-curated by Keith Munro and Djon Mundine, the exhibition explored the richness of early bark paintings alongside more recent practices by subsequent generations of artists.

The exhibition celebrated the diversity of artistic expression across areas of northern Australia, and presented the unique and individual styles of major artists’ communities in the region including Arnhem Land, Groote Eylandt and Calendon Bay, Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island), The English Company Islands, Liverpool River, Milingimbi, Glyde River, Maningrida, East Alligator River, Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), Cadell River, Croker Island, the Tiwi Islands and Port Keats.

The Arnott’s Collection was donated to the MCA in 1993 by Arnott’s Biscuits Limited. The collection comprises 273 barks and includes 42 works by Yirawala (c.1903–1976), the largest representation of work by this internationally renowned Aboriginal artist. This impressive collection was assembled by American graphic designer Jerome Gould, who was attracted to the fine design and compositional qualities of the paintings and purchased the barks directly from the artists over two decades during his regular trips to Australia.

To mark the occasion the MCA commissioned a major wall painting at the entrance to the gallery space by Richard Birrinbirrin. The senior artist from the Central Arnhem Land community of Ramingining recreated the kingfisher design connected to the Djang’kawu sisters’ story. This story tells of sisters who travelled from the island of the dead to the East Arnhem Land shores and then westward across the land, creating fresh water springs and life wherever they walked. In the east their design is coloured red, yellow and white, and to the west a fourth colour, black, is added.

Also included in the exhibition, on loan from the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney, were the first recorded bark paintings from Arnhem Land, collected in the 1870s from Port Essington. Rarely displayed, these works mark the earliest acknowledgement within colonial Australian society of this art practice. By exhibiting older works alongside specially commissioned and more recent works, They are Meditating celebrated the strength, diversity and continuity of the bark painting tradition and regional styles of a living culture.

This major exhibition was accompanied by a publication supported by descendants the Arnotts family. The exhibition was assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council of the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body, and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Featuring Works from the MCA Collection

Abadjura Ningkumanja Amagula
  • Creek with the evil spirit Wurramukwa
Thomas Nanjiwarra Amagula
  • Yingarna, yibarungkwa, yiburada, and dungkwiyaya (snakes, fish, and kangaroos)
  • Yingwa (thorny oyster)
  • Yiniyarrma, south-east wind Mamarika
  • Yirrangkwa (March fly)
George Anaragayura
  • Untitled (clan waterhole surrounded by totems and a fight below)
Jimmy Bapalindi
  • Wild bees totem
Jabarrgwa Wurrabadalumba Bara
  • North west wind
  • Yinungkwura barra (north-west monsoon wind)
Bayima Namakabiyaja Bara Bara
  • Tribesmen in boat
  • Yimarndakwuwaba (blue-tongued lizard)
Curly Bardkadubbu
  • Namarr (Black wallaby)
  • Rock kangaroo
Jack Barriyalanga
  • Fire totems, billabongs and the egret
  • Untitled
Bob Bilinyara
  • Bird totem
  • Circumcision ceremonies
  • Diver birds, catfish at Gadji Lagoon
  • Emu dreaming
  • The wanjarr dog myth
Binyinyiwuy
  • Emu dance
  • Sacred oysters
Bob Bopani
  • Djang'kawu legend
Charlie Boyun
  • Dreamtime legend Genydja
  • Lobster totem and salt water channels
Djoni Bunguwuy
  • Gupapuyngu mortuary ritual
David Datpugarri
  • Djalumbu ceremony
Dawidi II
  • The great snake and her eggs
  • Wagilag Sisters myth
Jumbo Dawulinyera
  • Flying fish
  • Flying fish totem of Cape Stewart
David Daymirringu
  • Gupapuyngu mortuary rites
  • Manharrngu mortuary rites
  • Mortuary rites for Gurrmirringu the great ancestral hunter
  • Serpent at Gatji waterhole
  • Snakes
  • The Gurrmirringu myth
  • The Gurrmirringu myth
  • The time of the dream
  • Yathalamarra (the sacred waterhole)
Gungguyuma Dhamarrandji
  • The constellation of Scorpio
Paddy Dhathangu
  • Catfish and crow totems
Tom Djawa
  • Emu dance
Jimmy Djelminy
  • The flying fox
Djimbarrdjimbarrwuy
  • Totem cloud pattern
Jack Gabarnabi
  • Crocodile in the Dreaming
Larrtjanga Ganambarr
  • Djambuwal the Thunderman
  • The Djang'kawu legend
Gimindjo
  • The Gadadangul snake
Gawirrin Gumana
  • Barama (creator figure)
Charlie Gunbuna
  • Goanna, butterfly and insect totems
  • Morning Star poles
  • Women gathering bush food
Don Gundinga
  • Black rock kangaroo
  • Hunter in the Japititjapin waterhole
  • Stone axe totem
Robin Guningbal
  • Fire totem
Mithinarri Gurruwiwi
  • Baywara-snake in Ganyimala
  • Mardayin (sacred story about the Wagilag Sisters)
Brisbane Gurumululu
  • Wubarr ceremony
Namerredje Guymala
  • Benuk (scrub turkey)
  • Ngalyod, Rainbow Serpent and Ngalkunburriyaymi, female spirit
Mick Kubarrku
  • Bobit-Bobit (the honey people)
  • Nawarran (the python)
Gaiyabidja Lalara
  • Untitled (the travelling rock)
Lipundja
  • Palm tree by water
Mick Magani
  • Benok (bush turkey) building the giant vegetation mounds to hatch their eggs
  • Mandiwala dance ceremony
  • Namajwarreh (estuarine crocodiles)
Harry Mahkarolla
  • Julunggul (Serpent man)
Nym Manalpuy
  • The great egret and walking figures
Wally Mandarrk
  • Du-gedi (rock kangaroo)
Samuel Manggudja
  • Mimih men of rainbow serpent, Ngalyod
  • Nakarren and his shadow
  • Two fish and trap
Charlie Marabinyin
  • Mullet fish totems
Mathaman Marika
  • The big feast
Mawalan Marika
  • Tribesmen at sea and land
  • Yuwuyuwuity the Giant
Narritjin Maymuru
  • Ancestral travels
  • Gunyan the crab on the beach at Djarrakpi
  • Marrngu (possums) following a dreaming path
Jimmy Midjawmidjaw
  • A mimih fertility spirit
  • Malutji
  • Mimih
  • Mimih hunting wallaby
  • Mimih women of the Liverpool River
  • Nadjinem, the black wallaroo
  • The anteater and the tortoise legend
  • Two Yerobeni spirit figures
David Milaybuma
  • Bandul-wanga (a madman)
  • The ancestor Nakorrkko in the form of a barramundi
Peter Milidji
  • Spider and web
George Nulumba Milpurrurru
  • Arafura swamp
Jack Mirritji
  • Flowering tree for butterflies
Peter Mondjingu III
  • Emu
Mutitjpuy Mununggurr
  • Untitled (Snakes and birds in tree, above a flowering tree)
Bandaka Mununggurr
  • Water walkers
Dick Murrumurru
  • Dancing mimih with yam
  • Kakbed (rock kangaroo)
  • Killing the rock kangaroo
  • Long-tailed possums at a site
  • Mimih spirits cutting up kangaroo, preparing for ceremony
  • Mimih woman with sugar bags
  • Namarnde (Devil spirit)
  • Ngard, short-neck turtle
  • Salt water barramundi
  • Three mimih running
Spider Namarikki Nabunu
  • Mimih spirit
Bardayal Lofty Nadjamerrek
  • Ceremony with women taking part
  • Kangaroo and yam increase
  • Leaping kangaroos
  • Mimih man and woman of early dreamtime (with yam symbols)
  • Two goannas
Bob Namundja
  • Mimih
January Namarndali Nangunyari
  • Male and female mimih figures
  • Namarakan (dangerous spirit people)
Michael Ngalabiya
  • Dreamtime legend
Fred Nganganharrilil
  • Djambarrpuyngu mortuary rites
  • Flying fox dance
Thompson Nganjmirra
  • Mimih
  • Mimih
  • Mimih
  • Mimih
Bobby Nganjmirra
  • Crocodile, barramundi and fish trap
  • Dreaming legend two mimih running
  • Dreaming rock
  • Dreaming rock of the turtle legend
  • Mibbarr the wedge-tail eagle sitting on the Weelark egg
  • Mimih snake in drum
  • The barramundi fish totem
  • Wubarr and Lorrkon
Jimmy Nakkurridjdjilmi Nganjmirra
  • Two barramundi fish
Nipper
  • Mimih spirit figure
Christopher Pugar
  • Life
Roy Riwa
  • Crab totems
Matthias Ullungarra
  • Pukumani ceremony
  • Pukumani ceremony
  • Pukumani ceremony (crocodile design)
Unknown
  • A billabong centre
  • Ceremonial spear
  • Male and female mimih
  • Serpent man
Peter Wadaymu
  • Lily and water snake and billabong
Walipuru
  • Snake and tree, Murrungun ceremony
Mithili Wanambi
  • Untitled (three honey bees)
Willowra
  • Mimih spirit with tribal dreaming rock
Yanggarriny Wunungmurra
  • Long necked fresh water tortoise near a fish trap at Gangan
Bill Namiayangkwa Wurrawilya
  • Dilyimba (squid)
  • Yimenda (turtle)
Anchor Wurrkidj
  • Mimih mother and child
  • Namarrkon (lightning spirit)
  • Wolerrk, female euro kangaroo
Yirawala
  • Badbong (female rock wallaby)
  • Barramundi Mardayin ceremony
  • Benok (female bush turkey)
  • Dancing Mimih
  • Djiribidj (brown quail)
  • Duwa frog, Maralatji and sons
  • Kangaroo increase dance
  • Kingfish and barramundi
  • Kudakidj (red plains kangaroo)
  • Kundakidj
  • Kundakidj (red plains kangaroo)
  • Kundakidj (red plains kangaroo), Wubarr and Lorrkon ceremonies
  • Lumaluma ghost (Mardayin ceremony man)
  • Lumaluma myth
  • Maralatj ancestress, creator of northern tribes
  • Maralatj (the Earth mother)
  • Mardayin and Lorrkon ceremonies
  • Mardayin ceremony freshwater crocodile
  • Mardayin Kangaroos and mimih
  • Mardayin turtle
  • Mardayin white barramundi
  • Mating dance of the wallabies
  • Mimih ceremony messengers
  • Mimih figures
  • Mimih performing yam increase
  • Mimih's dance of death
  • Mosquito dance moiety
  • Mother of Kundakidj
  • Ngalmangi (turtle)
  • Ngarrbek (porcupine)
  • Ngurrudu (emu)
  • Sacred Mardayin ceremony (body painting)
  • Shark and Mardayin
  • The making of the Liverpool River
  • Turkey and wallaby dance
  • Two Duwa figures
  • White fish dance
  • White fish dance
  • Yam increase
  • Yam increase dance
  • Yams Mardayin
  • Yirrita moiety divided into 'skins' by Maralatj
Mungurrawuy Yunupingu
  • Mardayin (sacred painting)
  • The circumcision boys
Tony Yuwati
  • Birrkili ceremony

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