Buku-Larrnggay Mulka, Yirrkala - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

Featured as part of the annual special "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2009"

It was a small work at last year’s National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, but it heralded a profound shift in traditional Indigenous art. Nyapanyapa Yunupingu’s Incident at Mutpi (1975) was a small bark painting with an accompanying video retelling the episode in which the artist was gored and almost killed by a wild buffalo. It combined new and old media (video and bark) and told a personal story rather than a symbolic depiction of collective dreaming or law. The prize – for a 63-year-old woman who lives in a tent – was welcomed as an important achievement for Buku-Larrnggay Mulka art centre at Yirrkala, Arnhem Land, a centre where multimedia has been embraced. (In 2008 the centre released a DVD of short films made by Yolgnu at the centre, Nyapanyapa’s video among them.)

So, too, the centre has looked to reviving traditional skills – to wit Bitpit, the “new growth” sculpture project and exhibition held at Raft, Darwin, in April and May 2008, which was designed to nurture the neglected art of woodcarving.

“They’ve had a successful year, and they’ve been consistent performers because they work really hard at it,” says Dallas Gold of Raft. “They always do OK.”

Other awards taken out by Buku-Larrnggay’s artists included the Togart Contemporary Art Award to Djirrirra Wunungmurra for a collection of superbly marked memorial poles, and the Xstrata Coal Emerging Indigenous Art Award at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, which went to Gunybi Ganambarr.

“It’s an exciting time for Buku-Larrnggay, they’re gaining recognition and working hard at the continuation of art and culture,” says Carly Lane from the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Christopher Hodges, Director of Utopia Gallery, agrees: “They still keep coming up with interesting stuff.”

Jane Hampson

Share this page: