John MAWURNDJUL AM, Lorrkon (Mardayin design) Enlarge 1 /2
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John MAWURNDJUL AM

Kuninjku (Eastern Kunwinjku) people

Mumeka, near Mann River, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia born 1952

Lorrkon (Mardayin design) 2004 Place made: Maningrida, Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural earth pigments and PVA fixative on stringybark

Dimensions: 213.0 h x 23.0 w 68.3 diameter cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.324
Image rights: © John Mawurndjul, courtesy Maningrida Arts & Culture

My work and my rarrk (crosshatching) have changed a lot since I started painting a long time ago [late 1970s]. That was with my brother [Jimmy Njiminjuma] and together, we have changed the rarrk and started to paint in a new style. We are new people… Now, I concentrate on painting important places, my land, my djang (sacred places). I paint the power of that land. I mainly paint Milmilngkan, Kakodbebuldi, Mukkamukka, Dilebang, Mumeka, Kurrurldul, Mirelk and Kudjarnngal. They are very important places for us, they have meanings. I keep thinking, I keep finding new ways, new styles for my paintings. I just can’t stop thinking about my paintings. I also teach other people, I help them, I give them advices and I tell them to make strong paintings. My children, they are now painting.
John Mawurndjul with Apolline Kohen, 2007

Lorrkon or hollow log coffins are central to the funeral ceremony practiced by the Kuninjku people of western Arnhem Land. The hollow logs, which housed the ochred bones of the deceased person, were painted with clan designs and placed into the ground where they were left to decay naturally. Mawurndjul’s work makes reference to a major secret and sacred ceremony called a Mardayin. The meaning of his work is restricted and not for public knowledge.

The thin and delicate rarrk (crosshatching) done by Mawurndjul is amazingly and uniformly maintained across the whole length of a hollow log . His hollow logs  reverberate with the power of ancestral beings who inhabit western Arnhem Land and demonstrate Mawurndjul’s masterful and dynamic arrangement of rarrk.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra