Djambawa Marawili

  August 18, 2015 - January 24, 2016



where the water moves, where it rests featured bark paintings, hollow log sculptures, and a print by Djambawa Marawili AM. These detailed works embody the ancestral beings Baru, the crocodile, and Burrit’tji, the rainbow lightning serpent. Through this exhibition, Yolngu people’s ever-present connection to land, community, and culture was expressed and generously shared. Djambawa’s works communicate a deep cultural knowledge that comes from Wangarr (the beginning), or the time before the first morning. 


Djambawa Marawili AM was a resident artist October 2016. His residency provided a unique opportunity for UVA students and the Charlottesville community to learn from an Indigenous Australian leader and artist. He gave public talks, spoke at the UVA School of Law about the intersections of Indigenous and non-Indigenous law in regards to sea rights and made new work with UVA printmaking students. Thanks to a gift from Maria T. Kluge, two of Marawili’s dhakandjali were acquired for the permanent collection.

The land has everything it needs. But it couldn’t speak. It couldn’t express itself. Tell its identity. And so it grew a tongue. That is the Yolngu. That is me. We are the tongue of the land. Grown by the land so it can sing who it is. We exist so we can paint the land. That’s our job. Paint and sing and dance. So it can feel good to express its true identity. Without us it cannot talk. But it is still there. Only silent.



Djambawa Marawili at Kluge Ruhe Collection, Nov 2015Djambawa Marawili AM is an acclaimed painter, sculptor and printmaker, and is a principal ceremonial leader of the Madarrpa clan of the Yolngu people. He uses art as a tool in his practice as a cultural leader, and many of his artworks express the deep connection of Yolngu people to water and sea. In 1996 he won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for the Best Bark Painting for a painting that is in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. A leader in the interface between non-Aboriginal and Yolngu people, Marawili led a successful campaign resulting in federal recognition of Yolngu sea rights in 2008. He was chosen by the Australian Prime Minister as a member of the National Indigenous Advisory Panel in 2013 and was named a Member of the Order of Australia.



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This exhibition was curated by Kimberley Moulton through the Wesfarmers’ Indigenous Curatorial Fellowship, and was presented in partnership with Australia Council for the Arts, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Maria T. Kluge, the National Gallery of Australia, and Wesfarmers.