Barrupu Yunupingu

It is ironic that in the TV show Survivor the plot depends on people being excluded once “the tribe has spoken”. Hollywood makes ostracism the definition of Indigenous tribal society. Ironic from a Yolngu perspective because it is the one thing that can’t happen under Indigenous Australian law but rather a defining feature of non-Indigenous society and its policy and practice towards Yolngu.

But as time passes and the rippled from the Whitlam era gather force we see that the policy of excluding Yolngu from Australian society, history and art subside.

Annandale Galleries and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre have been at the forefront of the movement since 1995.

What does it mean to include Yolngu art within your understanding of ‘Australian Art’? Not just to embrace the different way of seeing and making but also to recognise the Australianess of the subject matter. It is what is common to us as dwellers within this continent whatever our ethnicity or ways of being.

A European, American, Asian or African representation of fire is always going to mean something different to a viewer from one of those places. An Australian sense of fire is unique. And we do not have to live in Arnhem land to understand that essence. It is common to all of us and unites us.

And so in 2014 in a major mainstream gallery which routinely showcases the best of cutting edge world contemporary art we have a show where two artists from a remote Indigenous community make their contribution to the discourse. What is the essence of life? What are the forces which act on us? Where do we belong in the matrix of existence? They are each relations of the Gumatj clan whose history includes being shaped by a fire of supernatural intensity in the ancient past (think Black Saturday on a nuclear plane). Their language is a tongue of flame.Their children generated as sparks.

And the convenient exclusion of Yolngu art has been that it is just a tribal design repeated from generation to generation without variation and thus not worthy of inclusion in a discussion of Australian art. It is obvious to anyone seeing this exhibition that there could not be two more opposite sensibilities than Barrupu and Rerrkirrwanga. It is a vivid demonstration of artistic difference. The tribe has spoken.

- Will Stubbs Co-ordinator Buku Larrnggay Mulka


Barrupu Yunupingu
New Bark Paintings
November 14 - December 12

Exhibition features:

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Please note, works in previous exhibitions may no longer be available, please visit our stockroom for available works