Wak Wak (79cm)
- Artist: Deborah Wurrkidj
- Size: 79cmcm
- Hand painted carving, acrylic on wood
- Cat No 686-22
The Lorrkon or hollow-log coffin ceremony is the final ceremony in a sequence of mortuary rituals celebrated by the people of Arnhem Land. This ceremony might take place many years after the person has died, and involves the placing of the deceased’s bones into a hollow log that is decorated with painted clan designs and ceremonially placed into the ground where it slowly decays over many years.
The Lorrkon (hollow-log coffin) is made from the trunk of a termite-hollowed manbuluduk (stringybark tree, Eucalyptus tetradonta) and is decorated with totemic emblems. The western Arnhem Land version of the Lorrkon ceremony involves the singing of sacred songs to the accompaniment of karlikarli, a pair of sacred boomerangs used as rhythm instruments. During the final evening of the ceremony, dancers decorate themselves with kapok down or, today, cotton wool, and conduct much of the final segments of the ceremony in the secrecy of a restricted men’s camp. The complete ceremony may stretch over a period of two weeks, but on the last night the bones of the deceased, which have been kept in a bark container, or today wrapped in cloth and kept in a suitcase, are taken out, and are painted with red ochre and placed inside the hollow-log coffin.
At first light on the final morning of the Lorrkon ceremony, the men appear, coming out of their secret bush camp carrying the Lorrkon towards the women’s camp. The two groups call to each other using distinct ceremonial calls. The women have prepared a hole for the Lorrkon to be placed into, and when it is stood upright, women in particular kinship relationships to the deceased dance around the Lorrkon in a jumping/shuffling motion. It is then often covered with a tarpaulin and left to slowly decay.
Deborah Wurrkidj was born in 1971 at Maningrida in north-central Arnhem Land. Her language is Kuninjku and her moiety is Duwa. Deborah is well known for her fibre weaving, bark painting, woodcarving and printmaking.
Deborah is a versatile artist who has readily adapted to new art forms while retaining strong clan traditions. Her work is tactile and intricate and illustrates the artistic innovation that has occurred in Maningrida over the last 30 years.
Alongside her highly regarded fine art practice Deborah, with her mother, Helen Lanyinwanga, and sister Jennifer Wurrkidj has been working at Bábbarra Designs since 1991. She is a leading textile artist and an integral member of Bábbarra Women’s Centre.
Deborah has exhibited nationally including the 19th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2002 and is represented in a number of state and private collections.
Maningrida Arts & Culture is a pre-eminent site of contemporary cultural expression and art-making, abundant with highly collectable art and emerging talent. Through their homelands resource organisation, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, artists turned an art trade that began just over 50 years ago into a multi-million dollar arts and cultural enterprise. Maningrida Arts & Culture supported hundreds of artists on their homelands, more than 20 artworkers, held 20 exhibitions annually, won prestigious awards, and enjoyed the international fame and success that the boom in the Aboriginal art market of the 1990s and 2000s enabled.
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