Charles Darwin University
enews home

Crayon drawings inspire Yolngu descendants

By Patrick Nelson

Yirrkala crayon artists Bakali Garawirrtja, Mulawitjnga Maymuru, Mundatjngu Mununggurr and Rakuwan Gondarra in the CDU Art Gallery Yirrkala crayon artists Bakali Garawirrtja, Mulawitjnga Maymuru, Mundatjngu Mununggurr and Rakuwan Gondarra in the CDU Art Gallery

The recent exhibition of sacred crayon drawings in the Charles Darwin University Art Gallery has provided the catalyst for a unique intergenerational learning experience for a group of outstanding Yolngu students.

Four Yirrkala School students, who visited the gallery last month to take part in a Galtha Rom Workshop, were descendants of Yolngu leaders and statesmen who created the Yirrkala crayon drawings 67 years ago.

Curator Anita Angel said Bakali Garawirrtja, Mulawitjnga Maymuru, Mundatjngu Mununggurr and Rakuwan Gondarra spent two days in the gallery, examining the 81 crayon-on-paper works, listening to related narratives, before creating their own works of art.

“It was a privilege to offer these young people an opportunity to see and experience the drawings – what is effectively their cultural inheritance in art – for the first time,” Ms Angel said.

“They showed reverence and great excitement, having prepared for the visit through reading and research, and studying the exhibition catalogue.

“They connected with the drawings as though they were vital beings; as living art and law, not antiquated artefacts.

“They recognised their personal and familial clan designs in a new, vibrant medium, and the fact that the works enshrine a high degree of cultural authority.”

Ms Angel said the four teenagers and their teachers/elders worked together in the gallery and environs, closely observing the original drawings.

“They shared great joy in the process, but were also very serious about what they were doing.”

Yirrkala Drawings was the first national touring exhibition by a major Australian State public gallery (Art Gallery of NSW) to take place in the CDU Art Gallery.

“It has been one of our most successful exhibitions to date, with a record 1534 visitors during the eight-week season,” Ms Angel said.

The exhibition and workshop were supported by the Northern Territory Government and Festivals NT.