Territory Stories

Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu



Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu


Marika, Laklak; Marika, Banduk 1954-; Malgorzewicz, Anna; Marika, Mawalan 1; Isaacs, Jennifer; Bagshaw, Geoffrey; Morphy, Howard; Stanton, John E; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory


Marika, Banduk; West, Margie


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




Yalangbara' is the first Indigenous art publication to focus upon one significant ancestral site. It has been produced on behalf of members of the Rirratjingu clan to celebrate Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw), the landing site of the Djang'kawu ancestors; the law-givers and progenitors of the people throughout north-east Arnhem Land. Their creative activities are depicted by three generations of talented Marika artists, including Mawalan 1, Mathaman, Milirrpum, Roy, Wandjuk, Banduk, Dhuwarrwarr, Mawalan 2, Jimmy Barrmula and Wanyubi Marika. The accompanying text examines aspects of Yolngu (Aboriginal) aesthetics and material culture, history, myth, land ownership and copyright to show the complex interrelationship of these themes in Yolngu life. Margie West AM holds the honorary position of Emeritus Curator of Aboriginal Art at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. She is an anthropologist with over thirty years of curatorial experience in Indigenous art. Since 1972 she has curated over forty semi-permanent and touring Aboriginal art exhibitions and has published extensively on Aboriginal art. Some of the recent publications she has edited include 'Transitions' (2000), 'Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award: Celebrating 20 years' (2004), 'ReCoil, Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art' (2007), she was also co-editor with Hetti Perkins on the 'One Sun One Moon' publication (2006).


produced in partnership with Banduk Marika and other members of the Rirratjingu clan, north-east Arnhem Land; Indigenous people are respectfully advised that names and images of deceased people appear in the following pages. These have been reproduced with the consent of appropriate family members.

Table of contents

ntroduction/? Anna Malgorzewicz -- Journey of the Djang'kawu/? Mawalan 1 Marika -- The Marika family: guardians of Yalangbara, descendants of the Djang'kawu/? Jennifer Isaacs -- The physical and cultural dimensions of the Yalangbara area/? Geoffrey Bagshaw -- Yalangbara: the paintings/? Howard Morphy --Singing the land: the crayon drawings on brown paper collected by Ronald M and Catherine H Berndt/? John E. Stanton -- The sanctity of ordinary objects: material items of the Djang'kawu/? Margie West -- The counterfeit case/? Margie West -- Artist biographies




1905 - Visual Arts and Crafts; 1601 - Anthropology; Indigenous; Art; Northern Australia; Art, Aboriginal Australian; Rirratjingu (Aboriginal people)--Northern Territory--Yirrkala

Publisher name

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)

Place of publication



206 pages : colour illustrations, portraits, map ; 28 cm.

File type



9780980384673; 980384672



Copyright owner

Copyright for each chapter is held by the author or authors of that chapter



Related links

https://hdl.handle.net/10070/816698 [Front cover : Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu]

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165 Mathaman Marika (c. 19201970) Mathaman Marika was a passionate advocate of Yolngu traditions during a period of immense social change. Along with other family members, he pursued a customary lifestyle until the establishment of the Methodist mission at Yirrkala in 1935. When he was older, he worked closely with his senior brother Mawalan 1 in forging a rapprochement with the mission, which is reflected in his contribution to the famous church panels painted in 196263. While he accepted Christianity like his other family members, Mathaman was also an important ceremonial man who succeeded as leader of the Rirratjingu clan after the death of Mawalan 1 in 1967. Following Mawalans initiative, he continued the land rights struggle with the historic first legal action, Mathaman and Others v. Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia, 1969. This challenged the governments right to grant a mining lease without approval from the Gumatj and Rirratjingu owners of the Miwatj (Gove Peninsula) region. Mathamans role in this battle and his impact on subsequent generations of Rirratjingu is reflected upon by his son Djuwalpi: Mathaman Marika is a great artist and one of the persons who initiated the land rights in 1970. In 1967 Mawalan, his brother, passed away and he gave that leadership to Mathaman. So, along with Milirrpum and Roy and with the Yirritja leaders Munggurrawuy and Birrikitji, Mathaman was one of the key persons in the protest against putting up the mine site in Nhulunbuy, on the hill. It was on Gumatj land, but Rirratjingu were the main people for the Nhulunbuy mine site and they can talk about that area. Mawalan talked in 1967 about the mine site a little bit, and then Mathaman talked about it, about the development that had begun at Nhulunbuy. But because of his poor health, he passed away and he handed the leadership to Milirrpum Marika. Mathaman was also a distinguished artist who was most prolific from the late 1950s through to his death in 1970. During this time he developed a close friendship with the Melbourne-based art dealer Jim Davidson who became the main agent for his work in the 1960s. During his artistic career, Mathaman developed his own particular style for painting the Djangkawus travels to Yalangbara, the Morning Star ceremony, and the Nhulunbuy stories such as Wuyal the Sugarbag Spirit. He also regularly painted the Wagilag Sisters associated with the site of Marwuyu in central Arnhem Land. The rights to paint this were apparently established early in the 20th century by Mawalans grandfather with the Manhdalpuy clan during an exchange of ceremonial songs and paintings. Because of this, Mathaman and his descendants continue to paint the Wagilag story today.1 I saw my father, Mathaman, doing a lot of bark painting when I was young. He did a lot about the Wagilag Sisters and about the ocean side of Yalangbara and Yirrkala and other areas. But he didnt play much of a role in [painting] the Djangkawu creation, because my father had too much respect for the Djangkawu land. He didnt want to display those things. He was a very respectful person. He was only using the Wagilag design and played a role in the Wagilag ceremonial art and painted more paintings, like Gulurunga and this area, Yirrkala. He also painted Dhuwal, Sugarbag Dreaming from Nhulunbuy, so he did that painting too. Mathaman achieved one of the 1996 records for an art sale in New York for $75 000. His art was sold privately and theres a lot of his collection all around the world. Mathaman was also the key person for the Rirratjingu through ritual ceremony, Madayin and Djungguwan, and he was one of the people who delivered ceremonial obligations for Mawalan. When

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