Artist and curator Wukun Wanambi teaches UVA students about Yolngu bark painting in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Detail of Yalmay Marika, "Wagilag Dhäwu," 1996, 102.5” x 29.5” Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Wandjuk Marika. "The Coming of Djan’kawu," 1962. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi. "Marrangu," 2017. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 198.8 x 79.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi painting "Marrangu" in 2017.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Resume of His Subjects," 1965. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 74 x 44.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi discusses a painting with John Kluge Jr. in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Peter Datjin Burrarrwanga. "Ganiny," 1996. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 313.7 x 105.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
From right to left: Kade McDonald, Wäka Mununggurr, Djambawa Marawili AM and Margo Smith presenting a lecture about Madayin at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Yingapungapu," 1972. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 97.2 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Djambawa Marawili. "Yathikpa," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 156.2 x 61 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Djambawa Marawili AM and Kade McDonald working on curation.
Mithinari Gurruwiwi. "Naypinya," 1963. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 141.6 x 56.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Yinimala Gumana discussing Madayin in New York City.
Gawirrin Gumana. "Barama," 1968. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 104.1 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Nonggirrnga Marawili. "Lightning and the Rock," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 165.4 x 97.2 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of Maria T. Kluge, 2015. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Portraits of the commissioned artists. Images courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
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Artist and curator Wukun Wanambi teaches UVA students about Yolngu bark painting in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Detail of Yalmay Marika, "Wagilag Dhäwu," 1996, 102.5” x 29.5” Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Wandjuk Marika. "The Coming of Djan’kawu," 1962. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi. "Marrangu," 2017. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 198.8 x 79.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi painting "Marrangu" in 2017.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Resume of His Subjects," 1965. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 74 x 44.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi discusses a painting with John Kluge Jr. in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Peter Datjin Burrarrwanga. "Ganiny," 1996. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 313.7 x 105.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
From right to left: Kade McDonald, Wäka Mununggurr, Djambawa Marawili AM and Margo Smith presenting a lecture about Madayin at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Yingapungapu," 1972. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 97.2 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Djambawa Marawili. "Yathikpa," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 156.2 x 61 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Djambawa Marawili AM and Kade McDonald working on curation.
Mithinari Gurruwiwi. "Naypinya," 1963. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 141.6 x 56.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Yinimala Gumana discussing Madayin in New York City.
Gawirrin Gumana. "Barama," 1968. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 104.1 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Nonggirrnga Marawili. "Lightning and the Rock," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 165.4 x 97.2 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of Maria T. Kluge, 2015. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Portraits of the commissioned artists. Images courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Artist and curator Wukun Wanambi teaches UVA students about Yolngu bark painting in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Detail of Yalmay Marika, "Wagilag Dhäwu," 1996, 102.5” x 29.5” Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Wandjuk Marika. "The Coming of Djan’kawu," 1962. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 120.6 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi. "Marrangu," 2017. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 198.8 x 79.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Garawan Wanambi painting "Marrangu" in 2017.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Resume of His Subjects," 1965. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 74 x 44.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi discusses a painting with John Kluge Jr. in art storage at Kluge-Ruhe.
Peter Datjin Burrarrwanga. "Ganiny," 1996. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 313.7 x 105.4 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
From right to left: Kade McDonald, Wäka Mununggurr, Djambawa Marawili AM and Margo Smith presenting a lecture about Madayin at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Narritjin Maymuru. "Yingapungapu," 1972. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 97.2 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Detail of Djambawa Marawili. "Yathikpa," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 156.2 x 61 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Djambawa Marawili AM and Kade McDonald working on curation.
Mithinari Gurruwiwi. "Naypinya," 1963. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 141.6 x 56.8 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Wukun Wanambi, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Yinimala Gumana discussing Madayin in New York City.
Gawirrin Gumana. "Barama," 1968. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 104.1 x 53.3 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Edward L. Ruhe Collection, Gift of John W. Kluge, 1997. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Nonggirrnga Marawili. "Lightning and the Rock," 2015. Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark. 165.4 x 97.2 cm. Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Gift of Maria T. Kluge, 2015. © the artist, courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.
Portraits of the commissioned artists. Images courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.

Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Bark Painting from Yirrkala, Australia

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.

- Djambawa Marawili AM

about the exhibition

Madayin is the first major survey of Aboriginal bark paintings ever staged outside of Australia. It presents eight decades of one of Australia’s most unique contributions to global contemporary art.

For millennia, Yolngu people around Yirrkala in northern Australia have painted their sacred clan designs on their bodies and ceremonial objects. These designs—called miny’tji—are not merely decorative: they are the sacred patterns of the ancestral land itself. Yolngu describe them as madayin: a term that encompasses both the sacred and the beautiful. With the arrival of Europeans in the twentieth century, Yolngu people turned to the existing medium of painting on eucalyptus bark with ochres to express the power and beauty of their culture. The result was an outpouring of creativity that continues to this day as artists find new and innovative ways to transform their ancient clan designs into compelling contemporary statements.

Drawn from the world’s most important holdings of Aboriginal bark paintings, including the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Museums Victoria, Madayin will survey eight decades of artistic production at Yirrkala, from 1937 to the present, including 25 new works commissioned especially for the exhibition through the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. The curatorial team includes both Yolngu and non-Indigenous curators. The paintings on bark will be accompanied by an extensive media component including video, audio recordings and archival photographs, developed by the Aboriginal media unit at Yirrkala, The Mulka Project. The exhibition will tour the USA in 2021-2023; venues have not yet been announced.

Madayin offers a rare opportunity for American audiences to experience the grace and majesty of one of the world’s richest artistic traditions. The exhibition shows bark painting to be a dynamic tradition, brought forward by the artists of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center at Yirrkala. Ancient mark making traditions are carried into the present through the passion and artistry of these leading artists. Here in a remote corner of Australia has emerged one of the most powerful painting movements of our time.

how to support this project

We invite you to partner with us to commission new artworks by twenty-five contemporary masters of Yolngu art. For gifts of more than $2,500, your name will be attached to a commissioned artwork and will forever be associated with this historic moment in Australian Aboriginal art. Click here to donate now.

about the team

Madayin is a pioneering curatorial collaboration between Yolngu and non-Indigenous curators. The works in the exhibition have been selected by a team of Yolngu curators led by Djambawa Marawili AM, Wukun Wanambi, Yinimala Gumana and Wäka Mununggurr. Non-Indigenous members of the project team include Kluge-Ruhe director Margo Smith AM, Kluge-Ruhe curator Henry F. Skerritt, Kade McDonald, Howard Morphy, Frances Morphy and Will Stubbs.

about our partners

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre is an Aboriginal-controlled art center located in Yirrkala, Australia. Established in 1976, it has a staff of 20, primarily Aboriginal art workers, who serve the artists of northeast Arnhem Land in approximately 25 homeland communities within a radius of 200 kms. Buku regularly facilitates its artists’ involvement in major biennales, museums and gallery exhibitions around the world. Buku will provide infrastructure for the commissioning of new artworks for the exhibition, while assisting with the documentation and research of artworks for Madayin.

The Mulka Project was founded in 2008 as the Aboriginal media unit of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Center. An archive of Yolngu cultural knowledge, The Mulka Project repatriates materials from the past and documents the present for future generations. They provide training and employment for Yolngu people in all aspects of filmmaking, sound recording and digital editing. The Mulka Project will develop a multimedia component for Madayin to bring Indigenous voices into the gallery.

 

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