Image Size: 59.2 x 39.2cm; Paper Size: 76.4 x 57.2cm; Paper: Hahnemuhle
This woman is the widow and mother of Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Prize winners. Her whole life revolves around the production of art and the collection of food. Usually these two objectives are acheived simultaneously. This echoes a series which evolved in 2011 from her painting of small barks depicting woven pandanus bags dyed with natural colours. The dyes used in pandanus include the bark from the root of the Rotten Cheesefruit (burukpili- Morinda Citrofolia). She created works that showed scenes associated with gathering materials for the creation of Bathi (baskets). This includes cups of tea, djitama (cheeky yam) and sleeping dogs. This woman is the matriarch of a large clan of Yolngu people, her sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren, sons-in law, daughters in law and whatever English speakers call the spouses of one’s grandchildren. In Yolngu matha these terms are well known and oft used. They live between Yirrkala, Wandawuuy, Birany Birany, Gangan and Yilpara which are the homelands of the Madarrpa, Gumatj, Dhalwaŋu and Djapu clans which form the matrix of her kinship focii. They go to ceremony, they eke a living, they argue, they live as one but when things are good they go hunting. The troopy loads up and then disgorges up to twenty people and they head off in different directions depending on taste and talent. Some for oysters, some to spear fish, some to gather firewood or pandanus, some to go through the mangroves to get crabs. But some sit by the fire and tend it and cook and chat and sleep and mind kids. At the end of the day all will reconvene to eat stingray pate, mudcrabs, smoked oysters, magpie goose, cow, wallaby, brolga, tuna or crayfish and drink cups of tea, eat the damper cooked on the coals with lashings of bush honey or condensed milk. These are the precious times of family content and happy joking and teasing. Satisfied and secure. A series of paintings Noŋgirrŋa completed in 2012 grew from this experience. She started by painting string woven dillybags and then added the women going hunting to collect the Darranggurrk (Kurrajong bark) to make the string. Then a dog or two or a husband with a spear and eventually a tea cup found its way into the theme. Many years later and now she is too frail to join these trips anymore she revisited it in this print of bathi or bags- more properly this form is known as gay’wu.