John MAWURNDJUL AM, Rainbow Serpent's antilopine kangaroo Enlarge 1 /1


Kuninjku (Eastern Kunwinjku) people

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

Rainbow Serpent's antilopine kangaroo 1991 Place made: Mumeka, Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: (Unframed) 192.0 h x 99.5 w x 13.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1991
Accession No: NGA 91.874
Subject: Australia, Animal: Kangaroo
Image rights: © John Mawurndjul. Licensed by Viscopy

John Mawurndjul lives at Milmilngkan and Mumeka outstations in his clan lands in Western Arnhem Land. His home is adjacent to a deep waterhole created by the ancestral Rainbow Serpent called Ngalyod.

Kuninjku people believe that the world began with the birth of all the ancestral beings, in human and animal form, who came out of the body of the Rainbow Serpent. These beings went on their separate journeys and shaped the world through their creative actions. Where one of these beings spilled their blood, for example, we now find large bodies of red ochre; where the being dived into the earth, now there is a large waterhole. At the end of these creation journeys the Rainbow Serpent swallowed the beings back into the earth.

The distincitve rarrk or cross-hatched designs in Mawurndjul's work relate to the body paintings worn by the male initiates in Mardayin ceremonies. The visual sparkle of the rarrk expresses the presence of supernatural forces. The paintings on the initiates' bodies also map ancestral lands to express the intimate connection between the individual and their ancestrally inherited country.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

In his younger years John Mawurndjul gained a reputation for his exciting interpretations of the transforming powers of the ancestral beings of western Arnhem Land. Mawurndjul only commenced painting on bark for the market in the late 1970s, and in the early 1980s he was still learning to paint a variety of kangaroo species from his elder brother Jimmy Njiminjuma (1947–2004) and uncle Peter Marralwanga. Young Kuninjku artists take many years to gain the skill to correctly render the body forms of many animal species. Senior artists show them an iconography that in some cases has extreme time depth, for example bark paintings of certain animal species are little changed from examples of rock paintings in this region that are thousands of years old.

Rainbow Serpent’s Antilopine Kangaroo 1991 combines references to innovative transformational imagery suggesting the powers of the ancestral beings, or Djang, to change their body form. With increasing ceremonial experience, Kuninjku come to appreciate the powers of the ancestral beings and their role in creation events that give rise to new beings or result in the creation of sacred places also called djang. In this painting, Mawurndjul shows the vigorous entwining of two red kangaroo-headed Rainbow Serpents called Ngalyod. The circular elements at the centre of the work are two sites created through this ancestral event. By 1991, when this work was made, Mawurndjul was a master at controlling the complex composition of the figures in his paintings and the application of multiple sections of crosshatching that give vibrancy to the image as a whole. While the application of coloured lines and dotted emphasis in this work is painstakingly careful, the overall effect is a bold image of energy and power appropriate to the creation event.

Luke Taylor

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

澳大利亚勋章获得者马武恩尤·约翰 (MAWURNDJUL AM, John)
《彩虹蛇的羚大袋鼠》(Rainbow Serpent's Antilopine Kangaroo)
189.00(高) x 94.00(宽)厘米
192.00(高) x 99.50(宽) x 13.00(深)厘米(整体)

青年时代,约翰·马武恩尤声名远扬,他对西阿纳姆地先民改造力量的解释令人兴奋。马武恩尤在1970年代末才开始为市场作树皮画,1980年代初,他依然还在向哥哥吉米·马武恩尤(1947–2004)和叔叔彼得·马拉旺咖(Peter Marralwanga)学习画不同的袋鼠物种。年轻的康宁库(Kuninjku)艺术家要花很多年时间才能掌握正确刻画众多动物物种体型的技能。资深艺术家向他们展示一种有时极具时间深度的图解,比如说,特定动物树皮画与该地区已有数千年历史的岩画相比,几乎没有什么变化。


Luke Taylor

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra