YIRAWALA, Maralaitj, mother of the tribes Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

YIRAWALA

Kuninjku (Eastern Kunwinjku) people

Australia 1899 /1903 – 1976

Maralaitj, mother of the tribes c.1965 Place made: Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 62.0 h x 31.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976 Collected by Sandra Le Brun Holmes, Sydney
Accession No: NGA 76.153.30
Image rights: © the estate of the artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

The acknowledged master of western Arnhem Land bark painting is Yirawala, who belonged to the Naborn clan of the Marrkolidjban region on the Liverpool River. A strong advocate for the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal people in the face of threats to culture and land through missions, mining and Western materialism, Yirawala used his art to preserve and continue traditions, and to open the eyes of the settler population to the richness, sophistication and contemporary relevance of Aboriginal society, culture and law.

Yirawala grew up learning the traditional ways of his culture. His father, Nowaritj—a significant spiritual leader of his clan—taught him his people’s songs, stories, designs and the meanings of the dynamic rock paintings in the western Arnhem Land rock escarpment galleries. By the 1950s Yirawala was living on Minjilang (Croker Island) and was already an acknowledged senior ceremonial leader, a law and medicine man, and a leading creator of bark paintings. His earliest bark paintings were collected by Karel Kupka in the early 1960s. However it was through his association with Sandra Le Brun Homes that his art practice entered the public arena on a grand scale. He had his first solo exhibition at the University of Sydney in 1971 and the exhibition then toured throughout Australia. That same year he was awarded a MBE[1] and received an International Co-operation Art Prize.[2]

Yirawala’s early bark paintings were directly connected to the rock art of the western Arnhem escarpment, and included images of elongated animated spirit figures: mimih, sorcery figures and ancestors in human and animal form. As he grew in ceremonial status, Yirawala began to paint detailed renditions of sacred body designs from ceremonies such as the Mardayin, Lorrkon and Wubarr. When he became a ceremonial leader, he had the authority to not only replicate these powerful ancestral designs but also to elaborate, re-compose and innovate upon this significant visual repertoire.

Among the Kuninjku and some related groups in Arnhem Land, Maralaitj, also known as Warramurrungunjdji, is considered to be the first mother who gave birth to the ancestors of the peoples living in the region today. She possessed supernatural powers and in some versions of her story she did not require a man to conceive children. In other versions, she is said to have had two husbands. Maralaitj came from over the sea in the north-west, from the direction of present-day Indonesia. Yirawala depicts her giving birth to the clans who now inhabit the area at the mouth of the Liverpool River.

While Maralaitj, mother of the tribes c 1965 relates to rock paintings, the clan designs in Namanjwarre, the Mardayin crocodile c 1973 originate in body paintings from the Mardayin ceremony. Here, Yirawala is exercising his infinite creativity: Namanjwarre is depicted in x-ray style to show his backbone and tailbone. On either side are variations of the Mardayin designs. The sections of diagonal rarrk patterns create a tension within the figure, as though the coiled crocodile is about to pounce.

Mimih spirits c 1963 depicts a group of women and two men dressed in ceremonial regalia: they wear feathers in their hair and feathered string pendants around their waists; the figures in the lower half of the painting have clan designs painted on their torsos.

Another painting collected by Kupka is an image of sorcery. Depicting this subject in art was discouraged by missionaries in Arnhem Land, but collectors and anthropologists asked a number of artists to create such paintings. Sorcery images, whether on rock walls or on bark, were painted to inflict suffering on a perceived offender. As shown here, the figure’s limbs are contorted and stingray barbs protrude from its joints.

The National Gallery of Australia owns 143 bark paintings by Yirawala dating from the last two decades of his life. He was the first Indigenous artist to be collected by the National Gallery as part of a policy to represent in depth the most significant figures in Australian art.

Franchesca Cubillo

[1] Member of the British Empire, in recognition of Yirawala’s services to Aboriginal art.

[2] The International Cooperation Art Award was an Australian award made by artists to an artist whose work and influence had made an outstanding contribution to international understanding. Recipients since the inauguration in 1965 are: 1966 Roland Wakelin, 1967 Lyndon Dadswell, 1968 Roger Kemp, 1969 Arthur Boyd, 1970 Lloyd Rees, 1971 Yirawala, 1972 Ian Fairweather, 1973 Desiderius Orban.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

Among the Kuninjku and some related groups of Arnhem Land, Maralaitj, also known as Warramurrungunjdji, is considered to be the first mother who gave birth to the ancestors of the peoples living in the region today. The first mother possessed supernatural powers, and in some versions of her story she did not require a man to conceive children. In this case she is said to have had two husbands. Maralaitj came from over the sea in the north-west, from the direction of present day Indonesia. Yirawala depicts her giving birth to the clans who now inhabit the area at the mouth of the Liverpool River.

Yirawala, whose birth is variously dated from 1897 to 1905, was a member of the Naborn clan in the Marugulidban region on the Liverpool River in Western Arnhem Land. From his father he learnt his people’s songs, stories, designs and the meanings of the dynamic rock paintings in the rock galleries. By the 1950s he was living on Croker Island and was acknowledged as a senior ceremonial leader, a law and medicine man, and a leading producer of bark paintings, of which the National Gallery of Australia owns 143. In his bark paintings he incorporated the geometric body designs used in ceremonies.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

伊拉瓦拉 (YIRAWALA)
《玛若雷迪——部落之母》(Maralaitt, mother of the tribes)
约1965年
桉树皮,天然色料
62.00(高) x 31.00(宽)厘米
1976年购买,由悉尼Sandra Le Brun Holmes收藏
76.153.30

伊拉瓦拉,公认的西阿纳姆地树皮画大师,属利物浦河(Liverpool River)畔Marrkolidjban地区的那伯恩(Naborn)部落。面对传教、采矿和西方物质主义给文化和土地带来的威胁,伊拉瓦拉极力主张原住民的权利和愿望,他利用自己的艺术保存和延续传统,开阔移民人口的视野,了解原住民社会、文化和法律的丰富、精深和切实性。

伊拉瓦拉成长过程中掌握了自己文化的传统方式。他父亲诺瓦瑞吉(Nowaritj),一位举足轻重的部落精神领袖,向他传授了自己民族的歌谣、故事、图案和西阿纳姆地悬崖艺术长廊里动态岩画的意义。至1950年代,伊拉瓦拉生活在民吉朗(Minjilang)(亦称克拉克)岛上,已经是公认的资深仪式领袖、法律人和医者、还是树皮画的主要创作者。他最早的树皮画由卡雷尔·库普卡(Karel Kupka)于1960年代初收藏。然而,是他与Sandra Le Brun Homes的交往才使得他的艺术实践大规模进入社会大众视线。1971年,他在悉尼大学首次举办了个人画展,之后在澳大利亚巡回展出。同年,他被授予了英帝国勋章(MBE)并获得了国际合作艺术奖(International Co-operation Art Prize)。

伊拉瓦拉的早期树皮画与西阿纳姆地悬崖的岩石艺术有直接联系,其中包括瘦长活泼的精神人物形象:迷迷精灵、巫术图以及人类祖先与动物形态。随着仪式地位的抬升,伊拉瓦拉开始将马尔戴因(Mardayin)、洛孔(Lorrkon)和乌巴尔(Wubarr)等仪式上的圣体设计,详细在绘画中进行诠释。成为仪式领袖后,他不仅有权威复制这些强大的祖先图案,还有权对这一重要的视觉宝库进行精心制作、再创造和创新。

在昆宁居(Kuninjku)部落和阿纳姆地一些相关群落里,还以Warramurrungunjdji著称的马诺雷迪被视为生育了今天生活在该地区人们祖先的第一母亲。她拥有超自然法力,有些版本说她不需要男人就可以怀孕。其他版本中,据说她有两个丈夫。马诺雷迪从西北方向,即今天印度尼西亚方向,越洋而来。伊拉瓦拉描绘了她生下现在生活在利物浦河口地区族人的情形。

约创作于1965年的《玛若雷迪——部落之母》与岩画有关,而约创作于1973年的《纳曼吉瓦尔——马尔戴因鳄鱼(Namanjwarre, the Mardayin crocodile)》的灵感却源于马尔戴因仪式上的人体彩绘。这幅画中,伊拉瓦拉施展了无限创造力:使用X-光透视手法来展示纳曼吉瓦尔脊骨和尾骨。两侧是马尔戴因图案的变体。对角线图案部分为鳄鱼营造出一种体内张力,盘绕的鳄鱼似乎即将突击。

约创作于1963年的《迷迷精灵(Mimih spirits)》描绘了身着仪式服饰的一群妇女和两个男人:他们头上插着羽毛,腰围装饰有羽毛的条形垂饰;画面下半部分的人物在身体躯干上绘有部落图案。

库普卡(Kupka)收藏的另一幅画是一幅巫术图。阿纳姆地的传教士阻扰在艺术创作中描绘这一主题,但收藏家和人类学家邀请众多艺术家绘制这样的画作。无论是在岩壁还是树皮上,巫术形象的描绘是让认定的罪犯遭受痛苦。正如这幅画所示,画中人物的四肢扭曲,关节处露出刺鳐刺。澳大利亚国家美术馆收藏有143幅伊拉瓦拉晚年二十年期间绘制的树皮画。他是国家美术馆收藏的第一位土著人艺术家,这是美术馆全面代表澳大利亚艺术最杰出人物策略的组成部分。

Franchesca Cubillo
弗兰切西卡·库比尤


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Description

This is a bark painting by Eastern Kunwinjku artist Yirawala depicting the creation being Maralaitj giving birth to the clans whose country is at the mouth of the Liverpool River in the Marrkolidjban region of Western Arnhem Land. The painting is shown as an enlargeable image and in a video. Text onscreen gives information about Yirawala’s life, bark paintings and ceremonial status. The video soundtrack tells of the story of Maralaitj and her supernatural powers as well as outlining the importance of Yirawala as an artist. The painting measures 62.0 cm high x 31.0 cm wide and was painted on eucalyptus bark with natural earth pigments.

Educational value

  • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the 7-8 year band of the visual arts curriculum, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context. It may also be useful for teachers of history in year 3 and 4 particularly in relation to content descriptions about the importance of connection to Country for Aboriginal peoples.
  • The work is of considerable significance for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures cross-curriculum priority. It exemplifies one of the priority’s organising ideas in relation to Aboriginal peoples: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have unique belief systems and are spiritually connected to the land, sea, sky and waterways. The resource as a whole connects to another organising idea: Australia acknowledges the significant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people locally and globally. Yirawala (1899/1903-1976) fought for the rights of Aboriginal people and used his art to actively preserve and continue traditions.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra