Garrawurra are singing and waking up the young girl. They are standing on my mother’s country—singing from sunrise to sunset. This is women’s secret sacred ceremony. The deep story is not for here.

—Susan Balbunga

Susan Balbunga’s mother’s country of Maljikirridi-marrawindi is one of several sites where the Yolŋu creation beings, the Djaŋ’kawu Sisters, stopped as they travelled east to west across North East Arnhem Land. At each location their actions, their tools and their tongue (spoken language) formed metaphors for how humans would live. In a broad sense, they created the Law, language, culture, and song of each clan. On a more intimate level, the metaphors within each story underpin the dynamics of relationships—such as those between men and women, mother and child, young and old.

Balbunga’s Bamugora* is an object that operates both functionally and metaphorically for child conception, birth, women’s business, coming of age, and death. It is a womb that holds a fertile egg; a fishing net that catches a newborn; a tool for young men and women during initiation; a source of protection from sun, wind, rain and insects; a form of ground cover and shelter for a mother and her newborn; and a protective object for an elder nearing the end of life.

The artist states:

Bamugora is very special and it is very powerful.
Old people used them a long time ago.
I watched my grandmother when I was a young girl.
I watched her with my eye and recorded it in my memory.
There was no blanket or sheet, just Bamugora.
We would sit on top or sleep underneath.
We used Bamagura to cover ourselves, our babies and our old people.
It keeps us safe.
We were protected. No ants, scorpions, spiders or mosquitos would go under —maybe they don’t like the smell, I don’t know, but they won’t enter.
We used raŋan** (paper bark) then. Raŋan was our sheet. We didn’t have clothes, we wore a belt made from baḻgurr** (kurrajong) fibre.
The Djaŋ’kawu Sisters changed their name and tongue when they got to my mother’s country. They used their Bamugora there.
When old people are ready to die, we cover them with Bamugora  and we sing. We sing in Burarra or Yan-nhaŋu but in the voice of Garrawurra.

Balbunga began making this work in May 2019 and completed it in March 2020. Within this period, she and her extended family performed bäpurru** (funeral ceremony) for her youngest daughter to ensure her spirit would return to her origin waters.

* Burarra terminology
** Yolŋu Matha terminology

Story by Susan Balbunga
Translation by Phillip Guyabaka
Written by Rosita Holmes
Edited by Salome Harris

This artwork was exhibited at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, September 2020 as part of long water: fibre stories, an exhibition curated by Freja Carmichael. The above text was developed for the exhibition catalogue. To purchase a copy of the exhibition catalogue contact the IMA gallery shop on 07 3252-5750. To find out more about the Long water touring program see the IMA website.

 

Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

The Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation is a community owned Art Centre that maintains an important position in the national art and cultural arena. Milingimbi Art and Culture has a long history of producing works steeped in active cultural practice such as barks, ceremonial poles, carvings and weavings. Works from Milingimbi are integral to important collections in many National and International institutions.

 

Current

Gululu dhuwala Djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu FoundationsChau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney University. 18 Nov 2020 to August 2021.   Representing more than 20 Yolŋu clan groups and 100 artists from eastern Arnhem Land, Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations (18 Nov 2020 – August 2021) is one of the major exhibitions for the opening of the University of Sydney’s new Chau Chak Wing Museum. The 350 artworks in Gululu dhuwala djalkiri represent generations of Yolŋu artists and include pieces dating back to the period following the establishment of Methodist missions in Milingimbi and Yirrkala, the late 1920s and 1940s. There anthropologists from the University acquired artworks and objects and took photographs in consultation with Yolŋu as an integral part of their researches. The exhibition also features new work, including a series of hollow logs made by artists of Milingimbi Art and Culture which were a centrepiece of the 2016 Milingimbi Makarraṯa.

 

 

Upcoming

Gularri: Yothu yindi. Water Scapes from northern Australia, 22 July to 26 September 2021. Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy at Outstation Gallery, Darwin. Opening 20 March 2021.

Cross Art Projects, Sydney. 2021. Renown Milingimbi artist Margaret Rarru will exhibit a selection of weavings and drawings inspired by Macassan /Yolŋu trade alngside artworks by Indonesian artist Ipeh Nur.    

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Darwin Convention Centre, 6 to 8 August 2021.

Tarnanthi Art Fair, Adelaide. October 2021.

 

Past

 

Bäpurru ga Bäpurru, 26 August 2020 to 10 January 2021, Kluge Ruhe, USA.  An exhibition of recent print works from Milingimbi and Yirrkala. Works from Milingimbi will include the Bäpurru Memorial suite created in honour of the late Mrs Gorriyindi who passed sudden shortly after working as follow with the Kluge Ruhe in 2018.

Long Water: fibre stories, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 5 September–19 December 2020. A survey exhibition of Indigenous weavers curated by Freja Carmichael. Susan Balbunga, Ruth Nalmakarra, Helen Ganalmirriwuy and Mandy Batjula have created a series of pieces that express the artists connection to water through their weaving practice.

Tarnanthi: Open Hands 16 Oct 2020 – 31 Jan 2021. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Milingimbi artists; Susan Balbunga,Wilson Manydjarri, Helen Ganalmirriwuy, Margaret Rarru, Mandy Batjula, Ruth Nalmakarra, Paddy Mugabi, Matthew Djipurrtjun, Samual Wumulul and Jacob Ganambarr have created an installation of mindirr, miny'tji, ḏupun ga manikay (weaving, painting, memorial poles and song) that explores the interconnection of these art forms, and the märi gutharra (grandparent and grandchild) relationship of the Garrawurra and Gamalaŋga clans. 

Tarnanthi Art Fair, at Lot fourteen, 4 to 6 December 2020. This year’s Art Fair features a curated display of selected works for sale, handpicked by community-run art centres to highlight established and next-generation artists. It also includes shop-style sales of countless works by artists from across Australia. In addition, a program of digital presentations will show artists making their work and discussing their motivations, traditions and environment.

Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion, Bendigo Art Gallery. 31 October to 29 November 2020. Brings together a selection of garments and textiles by First Nations designers and artists from around Australia including Margaret Rarru's woven pandanus Madonna Bra and Bathi.

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Darwin Convention Centre, August 2020. (This will be an online event)

Wrapped, Woven & Wound, JamFactory, Adelaide. 15 May to 12 July 2020. Presents work from eight female artists, including a mix of sculptural, decorative and functional pieces that explore the use of interlaced or wrapped components. Including works by Mandy Batjula.

The Magic of Black and White, Siemenstraße 40, 71735 Eberdingen-Nussdorf, 19 January 2019 to 1 March 2020. A group exhibition featuring artworks by Australian and Papua New Guinean First Nations People. With a focus on the reduced palette of 'black and white' this exhibition features Helen Ganalmirriwuy's stunning Mol (black) weaving.

The Alchemists: Weaving Knowledge, The Goods Shed, Perth,  4 October 2019. A survey of recent contemporary fibre art from Aboriginal artists and art centres across the country.

Pandanus Noir; Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy selected weavings, RAFT Artspace, Alice Springs, 2 October 2019. An exbibition featuring a selection of Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy's Mol (black) woven artworks and several other monochrome pieces.

Ngalya (Together), Koskela, Sydney,  28 August to 22 September 2019. The collection of collaborative lighting designs between designers Koskela and six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres – Bula’Bula Arts, Durrmu Arts, Milingimbi Art and Culture, Moa Arts, Ngarrindjeri Weavers, and Tjanpi Desert Weavers – highlights the innovation and contemporary transformations taking place in Indigenous fibre arts and cultures across Australia. Also on exhibition at Tarnanthi Festival, from 18 October 2019

Contemporary Art from Asia, Australia and the Pacific: A Selection of works from QAGOMA’s Asia Pacific Triennial’ is at Centro Cultural La Moneda in Santiago, Chile from 22 August – 8 December 2019 Including artworks (paintings on bark, memorial poles and weavings) by Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy.

The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Memorial Poles, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, United States of America, 31 July 2019. A survey of contemporary memorial poles from Arnhem Land collected by Debra and Denis Scholl.

GOMA Asia Pacific Triennial, 24 Nov 2018 – 28 Apr 2019 . The Asia Pacific Triennial brings significant art from across the Asia Pacific and Australia to GOMA Brisbane. This exhibition includes Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy master weavers who also paint their clan body designs in minimalist patterns on barks and poles.

ArtKelch, Freiburg, Germany. Exhibition opening 14th September

Local Colour: experiments with nature, University of New South Wales Gallery, 28 July, 2018  15 September. As the world has become more globalised, people are seeking meaning, connection and everyday solutions in their local communities and environments. Local Colour explores recent art and design practice premised on a concern for environmental sustainability and the conservation of natural resources.

National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Art Awards. Museum and Gallery Northern Territory, 11 August - 11 November 2018

Gapu Moṉuk, Animal Logic, Ground Floor, 1632 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA, 3-20 May 2018, Gallery Hours 11am – 5pm, Thursday through Sunday

Earth Matters at Form Gallery, Perth.  29 September – 28 February 2018
This exhibition explores the enigmatic qualities and materiality of white earth pigments in Aboriginal artwork from the Kimberley (WA), Arnhem Land (NT) and Tiwi Islands (NT) in paintings, and three dimensional works.

Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth, 26th July - 16th December, 2017. Brinning together artworks from the museums historical collection and recently commissioned memorial poles. 

Milingimbi Art and Culture: Gapu Moṉuk, Embassy of Australia, Washington D.C, USA, 3 October, 2017

Gapu ga Rangithirri ga Ngurruthirri ga: the water is coming up, the water is going away at Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Brisbane 613 Stanley St, Woolloongabba, Qld, 26 September - 22 October, 2017

Walma / Moon Rising, Koskela Gallery, Sydney, 29 July - 27 August, 2017

Art from Milingimbi: Taking Memories Back, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 November, 2016 - 29 January, 2017. This exhibition provides a snapshot of the artistic excellence evident in the community in the 1950s, celebrating the work of Binyinyuwuy, Buranday, Dayngangan, Dawidi, Djäwa, Djimbarrdjimbarrwuy, Lipundja and Makani, alongside the wider artistic practices in the community at the time.

Yolngu'yulnguy Ngayatham Miny'tji Danydjay Romdhu (Everyone, past present future, we all hold and look after our sacred designs in the depth of the law), Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney, 12 - 30 November, 2016

Contact us

A: Lot 53 Gadupu Rd, Milingimbi via Winellie, NT 0822
P: (+61) 8987 9888
E: art@milingimbiart.com

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

© Milingimbi Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

Follow us