Balang (Mick) KUBARKKU, Ngalyod Rainbow Snakes at Gubumi on the Mann Enlarge 1 /1

Balang (Mick) KUBARKKU


Australia 1920 /1924 – 2008

Ngalyod Rainbow Snakes at Gubumi on the Mann 1979 Place made: Maningrida, western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 126.0 h x 79.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2008
Accession No: NGA 2008.789
Image rights: © Balang (Mick) Kubarkku. Licensed by Viscopy

Balang (Mick) Kubarkku’s life spanned a period of incredible change for his people, the Kunwinjku (eastern Kunwinjku), of central Arnhem Land. From the Kulmarru clan, Kubarkku was of the Dhuwa moiety and Balang subsection. He was born at Kukabarnka, part of his homelands in the Marrinj clan estate, which included Yikarrakkal and Kubumi. He died in May at the township of Maningrida, central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Kubarkku was born into a world that had minimal contact with non–Indigenous people and culture, when the only white people who travelled to largely inaccessible Arnhem Land were traders, anthropologists and later missionaries. The first bark paintings were collected in the 1870s from Port Essington. Maningrida did not exist until just after Second World War when it was established as rations distribution centre/trading post; however, the timeless culture of the Kunwinjku has been inherent in the land for thousands of generations. As with many Indigenous artists from traditional communities, Kubarkku was tutored in artistic and cultural practices by his father, Ngindjalakku, initially creating paintings for sacred ceremonies and later selling his works through the government established township of Maningrida. At the time of his death, Kubarkku had been infirm for some time and had not created any works of art since the early 2000s. Very few works were created after 1995, when Kubarkku was acknowledged for his artistic vision and prowess in the exhibition Rainbow, sugarbag and moon, with Wamud Namok, AO, curated by Margie West, then Curator of Aboriginal Art and Material Culture at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. These bark paintings are part of a group of 18 barks recently acquired by the Gallery, marking an extremely valuable addition to the holdings of this significant artist’s work in the national collection, bringing the total number of works in the collection by Kubarkku to 25. Spanning four decades by one of the country’s most significant Arnhem Land artists, the group of barks were collected by a single vendor over a number of years. Kubarkku was a traditionalist in his approach to painting, mirroring his upbringing with minimal contact with white people prior to war. His art adhered to the style reminiscent of rock art painting, similar to his colleague and countryman Wamud Namok and other contemporaries such as Anchor Kulunba, Peter Marralwanga and Crusoe Kuningbal—all of whose descendents are among the current group of acclaimed Kunwinjku artists. Kubarkku produced highly figurative work, allowing space around his depictions of totemic animals and spirit beings, differing markedly from the innovative and increasingly abstracted rarrk (cross–hatched) designs created by acclaimed Kunwinjku artists like John Mawurndjul. Initially he commenced painting at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) after the war before moving to Maningrida in 1957, where he and David Milaybuma were the first regular painters at Maningrida. The present Maningrida Art and Culture—arguably one of the country’s most recognised and successful art centres—evolved from the establishment of an art and craft centre in 1968, auspiced through the Maningrida Progress Association. His representations of malevolent spirit beings and ancestral figures resonate with power, and the works of Kubarkku and Namok are a direct connection to the ancient tradition of painting on rock surfaces and bark shelters, a tradition that ceased in 2004 when Wamud Namok painted the last image on rock galleries near his homeland. Kubarkku’s first paintings were on bark shelters and he later incorporated the rarrk designs associated with the Mardayin ceremony into his art. Among his repertoire were Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent; Namarrkon, the lightning spirit; Kodjok Bamdjelk, the pandanus spirit; lorrkon (hollow log coffin); namorroddo, yawk yawk and mimih spirits; and assorted freshwater fish species and native animals such as the namanjwarre (estuarine crocodile) and lambalk (sugar glider). He is the cultural custodian, or djungkay (manager), of the Bird Moon Dreaming.

"Namarrkon, the Lightning Spirit is associated with the intense electrical storms of kunemeleng, the pre–wet season between October and December. Namarrkon I typically illustrated in the rock art and bark paintings of the region with a circuit of lightning encircling its body. Kulburru, the stone axes which protrude from his joints, are hurled by Namarrkon to cause the lightning and thunder that accompany tropical storms. The body form of Namarrkon is said to represent ngaldjurr the Leichhardt’s Grasshopper (Petasida ephippigera), which is active and most visible during this time of year."1

Contemporary Arnhem Land artists create works for the art market, acquired for public and private collections, and none paint designs on the rock art sites, some of which dated as old as 50 000 years (if not older). Kubarkku was one of the few men who could recall those artists of earlier generations and was able to provide detailed interpretations of images on the rock galleries.

Brenda L Croft
Senior Curator
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

1 Margie West (ed), Rainbow, sugarbag and moon: two artists of the stone country, exhibition catalogue, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, 1995.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Balang (Mick) Kubarkku grew up and lived on the Marrinj clan estate around the Mann and Liverpool Rivers region, learning the traditions of his people. As with many Aboriginal male artists from traditional Aboriginal communities, Kubarkku was tutored in artistic and cultural practices by his father, Ngindjalakku, initially creating paintings for sacred ceremonies and later selling his works at the government-established township of Maningrida.

Kubarkku’s painting style is closely associated with that of western Arnhem land rock art painting traditions, and has much in common with that of his colleague and countryman Wamud Namok and other contemporaries such as Anchor Kulunba (c 1917–1996), Yirawala, Peter Marralwanga and Crusoe Kuningbal (1922–1984)—all of whose descendants are among the current group of Kuninjku artists.

Kubarkku began painting at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) after World War II, at first onto the walls of bark shelters, then onto portable sheets of bark. He moved to Maningrida in 1957, where he and David Milaybuma (1938–1993) were the first regular painters for the local art centre, Maningrida Art and Craft, which was established in 1968.

In this painting, Kubarkku depicts the ancestor, Ngalyod the Rainbow Serpent, at Gubumi on the Mann River. The dynamic fluid lines show the creator being in motion and suggest his transformative powers as he forms features of the landscape.

Franchesca Cubillo

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

巴朗(米克)·库巴尔库 (Balang (Mick) Kubarkku)
《曼恩河畔古布米的彩虹蛇加里奥德》(Ngalyod Rainbow Snakes at Gubumi on the Mann)
126.0 (高) x 79.0 (宽)厘米
收录号:NGA 2008.789


库巴尔库的画风与西阿纳姆地岩石艺术画传统的风格关系密切,与同事及同乡瓦穆德·纳莫克(Wamud Namok)以及安克尔·库伦巴(Anchor Kulunba,约1917-1996)、伊拉瓦拉(Yirawala)、彼得·马拉旺咖(Peter Marralwanga)和克鲁索·康宁波尔(Crusoe Kuningbal,1922-1984)有很多相似之处;他们的晚辈现在都跻身当代昆宁居(Kuninjku)艺术家之列。

第二次世界大战后,库巴尔库在冈巴兰亚(欧恩佩里)开始绘画生涯,最初在树皮搭建的避难所墙上涂鸦,后来在便携树皮片上作画。1957年他移居马宁格力达,和大卫·米雷布玛(David Milaybuma,1938-1993)成为当地艺术中心马宁格力达工艺美术(Maningrida Art and Craft)的首批常驻艺术家,该中心创办于1968年。


Franchesca Cubillo

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra