8. Gumatj, 2023 (8/50)
This design represents my clan; the Gumatj clan from Birany Birany. The diamonds represent fire. In this print the smaller diamonds around the outside reflect small bush-fires that Yolŋu people start from hunting in the bush. The fires force the animals out for us to spear or catch with our hands. Some climb the Larrakitj, so we cut them down to catch them. The big diamond in the middle represents the big fire we make for cooking the animals we catch. Animals we eat are: bandicoot, possums and kangaroos.
- Etching on Hahnemuhle paper
- Dimensions: 49.8 x 50.5cm artwork on 62.5 x 65cm paper
- Cat No. 4272-23-8/50
Clan: Gumatj, Rrakpala group
Yirritja Wanapati is a Yolŋu artist who lives in the remote Gumatj homeland of Biranybirany, North East Arnhemland in the Northern Territory. This is a coastal community set amongst sand dunes and stringybark forest at the end of a lonely gravel road three hours from the nearest small town, Yirrkala. There are approximately ten houses here but no mains power or store. The residents live a life dictated by the ceremonial and seasonal calendar supplemented by regular 6 hour round trips to the mining town of Nhulunbuy for supplies.
Wanapati is the son of deceased artist and spiritual leader Miniyawany Yunupiŋu from whom he inherited rich ceremonial instruction, and was trained in the art, Law and cultural practice of his and related clans while living between the homeland communities of Waṉḏawuy (his mother’s clan land) and Biranybirany. Wanapati has been strongly influenced by peer and artist Gunybi Ganambarr who radically embraced the use of found object in his practice. Gunybi is fifteen years older than Wanapati but a very inclusive and warm mentor to younger artists. He has always actively encouraged them to find their own path, as he was, by his own mentor, Djambawa Marawili AO.
Wanapati has quickly forged his own style, etching his sacred Gumatj clan designs and narratives into the face of discarded street signs and twisted metal and aluminium surfaces that litter the landscape of North East Arnhemland. He is a physically large man but quite shy, very gentle, friendly, humorous and soft spoken. He is popular within the Yolŋu community who recognise his natural humility and respect for others.
Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land. Located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the northeastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. The primarily Yolŋu (Aboriginal) staff of around twenty services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.
In the 1960’s, Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolŋu-owned business to sell Yolŋu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that exhibits and sells globally.
Today Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre consists of two divisions; the Yirrkala Art Centre which represents Yolŋu artists exhibiting and selling contemporary art and The Mulka Project which acts as a digital production studio and archiving centre incorporating the museum.
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