Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia born 1968
Yawkyawk mother and babies
Maningrida, Western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, fibrework, natural earth pigmentsand natural dyes on pandanus
The women artists at Maningrida are renowned for their inventive woven objects and sculptures. Anniebell Marrngamarrnga learnt to weave coiled baskets and twined string bags from her mother Nancy Djulumba (1949–1995). Through her experiments with weaving Marrngamarrnga has developed her own style of representing her favourite subject, the yawkyawk.
Yawkyawk are described as young girls or mermaids with long flowing hair made of water weeds and long tails. They are shy and hide at the smell of humans and sometimes wander at night on land. For works such as Yawkyawk mother and babies 2006, Marrngamarrnga’s husband Dick Nadjolorro (born 1967) builds the bamboo frame around which she weaves coloured pandanus. Through subtle variations in colours and weave patterns, Marrngamarrnga is able to draw out or accentuate parts of the yawkyawk. In this work the babies appear to be either gestating in the mother’s belly or, as with many newborn water creatures, swimming close to the underside of their mother for protection, guidance and easy access to milk.
My favourite subject is to represent the yawkyawk spirit who lives in the water at Kubumi. It is my husband’s Dreaming. I represent her in my bark paintings, in my timber carvings and also in my weaving. I came with the idea to make flat yawkyawks from pandanus. I then weave with colourful pandanus in the same technique I used when making twined bags. I use lots of different colours and I like it. Colours are important in my work.
 Anniebell Marrngamarrnga in conversation with Apolline Kohen, manager of Maningrida Arts and Culture, Maningrida, 2007.
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