(Nancy) Gaymala Yunupingu

<strong>[Nancy] Gaymala Yunupingu</strong><br/>b.c.1935 – d.2005<br/>Moiety: Yirritja<br/>Homeland: Biranybirany <br/>Clan: Gumatj, Rrakpala<br/><br/><i>Wan’kurra [Bandicoot]</i>1999<br/>Etching edn 99 (workshop proof)<br/>39 x 49cm [image] 54 x 65cm [paper]<br/>Collaborator: Basil Hall <br/>Printers: Basil Hall & Jo Diggens<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU720<br/>Gifted by the artist & Northern Editions Printmaking Workshop, 1999<br/>Image © the artist’s estate & courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Arts

Daughter of Mungurrawuy and sister to Galarrwuy and Mandawuy Yunupingu, the late Nancy Gaymala Yunupingu was a senior Yolngu artist and matriarch of distinguished accomplishments in both the visual arts and regional politics. Gaymala’s mother was Bakili, a Galpu clanswoman, from whom the artist inherited a separate body of knowledge and artistic subject matter. Her creative sensibility was preeminent in the graphic arts, where her zest for life and spontaneous approach to the visual representation of Yolngu iconography were given full and free expression. 

Gaymala’s artistic repertoire included paintings in ochre on bark, weavings, carved and painted wooden sculptures, as well as printmaking (etching and screenprints). She held two solo exhibitions in Canberra at aGOG (australian Girls Own Gallery) in 1992 and 1995. She was artist-in-residence at Wollongong University’s Faculty of Creative Arts, where she created a series of lincout prints in 1995. In 1997 she was selected for the Fremantle Shell Print Awards, WA. In 1999, the artist was commissioned by Nabalco to produce a Christmas card image, based on an earlier collograph series. In 1999, she was also commissioned to paint several large-scale murals – for the Aboriginal Hostel, Nhulunbuy, Gove Industrial Supplies Building and Nhulunbuy Hospital’s Children’s Ward. The same year, together with her sister Gulumbu and Dhuwarrwarr Marika, she was engaged to paint a large film set (the Yirrkala Church Panels) for the film production Yolngu Boy.

Wan’kurra, the plump and pointy-nosed bandicoot was a common subject in Gaymala’s work, most often captured in flight, scuttling through scrubland in the wake of Dry Season fires across the artist’s country, where the terrestrial marsupial is prolific. Wan’kurra also feature in Gumatj ceremony song-cycles.

In this print, the central motif represents the bandicoot’s yalu (nest).  The two larger Wan’kurra are the mother and father, and the three smaller ones the offspring.  The corona they form is punctuated by star-like gadayka (stringybark) flowers, symbolising the season to gather guku (sugarbag).  The blue linear border design represents the artist’s country at Biranybirany.

Gaymala’s work is held in major public and private collections including the National Museum (Aboriginal Arts Board Collection) and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, the National Maritime Museum, Sydney, Museum Victoria, Melbourne and the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT.  The CDU Art Collection currently holds six examples of her limited edition prints – two etchings and four screenprints.

Anita Angel, Curator CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
3 February 2011

Sources: Buku-Larrnggay Mulka, Artist’s Biography & Print Certificate.

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