Clan: Maŋgalili, Belaŋ group
Baluka is the son of Nanyin Maymuru (1918-1969) the elder brother of Narritjin, one of Yirrkala’s most famous artists. Baluka is himself an important artist and also head man of the Maŋgalili clan. Nanyin and Narritjin established something of a ‘school’ of artists made up of themselves, their wives and children which produced prolifically through the 1960’s and 70’s. Narritjin was a presence in most of the major historical events of the 20th Century affecting Yolŋu.
From the mid-1950’s their work was collected by many visiting anthropologists, artists, curators and later tourists and mining company employees. In the early 70’s he established a shelter at ‘Raki’ on the beach at Yirrkala from which he sold artwork outside the mission craft shop system if not in direct competition with it. In the spirit of self-determination this leadership act laid the groundwork for the Buku-Larrŋgay Art centre which was established in 1976 as a Yolŋu controlled enterprise.
Baluka is the exemplar of a Yolŋu elder. He is soft spoken and almost shy. He dedicates himself to his onerous ceremonial responsibilities. This often means long stretches at remote homelands far from his own home. He is fastidious and gifted as an artist in both the secular and presumably the sacred spheres. This is reflected in his two awards, nineteen years apart, in the same category (three dimensional) at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.
When he can he resides at Djarrakpi, the magnificent landscape at the northern entrance of Blue Mud Bay. It is a place that is subject to the incredibly rich Maŋgalili ancestral history, first brought to the public fore in the art of his fathers, Narratjin and Nanyin. In June 2000, Baluka was elected chairman of the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka artist committee, a position he held until his resignation in 2003.
Although steeped in art and the production of it Baluka’s demanding schedule of ceremonial duties and his painstaking work practices mean that he produces only a few works every year. To this date this has meant that he has not had a solo show. In 2003 he collaborated with Djambawa Marawili and Gawirrin Gumana to produce a larrakitj for his old friend and adopted clansman Adrian Wagg which was documented in the film, ‘The Pilot’s Funeral’.