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Arthur Koo'ekka PAMBEGAN JNR

Wik-Mungkan people

Australia 1936 – 2010

Red-backed Flying fox 2006 Place made: Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, natural earth pigments and hibiscus charcoal with synthetic polymer binder on canvas

Dimensions: overall 56.0 h x 168.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2007
Accession No: NGA 2007.174.A-B
Image rights: © Arthur Pambegan Jnr, courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane.
  • I’d just say…I won’t stop doing it. This belong to all of us. We share it together…we share our culture and you sharing your culture. The culture, what you see in the carvings, in the body painting, what you see in the canvas, they more important, because this is the way we are – not going to lose it. If we don’t keep our laws…our culture…then we fade away. We lose our culture…we lose our language. Then we be talking something else, maybe in English. So we have to take care. This is our background. From the beginning to the end. From generation to generation. Just passing it on.
    Arthur Pambegan Jr

    Pambegan Jr has been making art for the commercial art market for many years, reaffirming his identity out of the soft milkwood trees that are abundant in the area and perfect for carving. Included in this exhibition are the first canvases that he has ever painted. These diptyches are the body paint designs of the Walkaln-aw and Kalben used by the Winchanam people. These canvases symbolise the skin of their painted bodies before they go into ceremony. The Flying fox installation illustrates a story relating to Pambegan Jr’s traditional country. The sculpture describes the first stage of initiation, u chanam, and refers to the story of two young initiates who disobeyed the law of the elders. They went hunting flying foxes and killed too many for cooking. So when the initiates were waiting for their meal to cook, the flying foxes returned and took them up into the sky. The two boys turned into flying foxes and never return.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra