Exhibition celebrates traditional bush professor


Yurrbari, 1991. Courtesy Museum and Art Gallery of the NT

Yurrbari, 1991. Courtesy Museum and Art Gallery of the NT

Traditional law, astronomy, bush medicine, sorcery and ancestral narrative are themes being explored as part of an exhibition celebrating the life of a self-described “bush professor” to open at Charles Darwin University Art Gallery today.

“Yidumduma Bill Harney: Bush Professor” is a retrospective exhibition showcasing the life work of Yidumduma Bill Harney, one of the last fully initiated men of the Wardaman people from the Northern Territory.

Yidumduma, now 85 years old, is described by Anthropologists to have knowledge “encyclopedic in nature” and his artwork one way to share this intimate understanding with the world.

CDU Art Gallery Acting Curator Kellie Joswig said the exhibition originally launched in 2016 at the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre in his local community of Katherine would travel to Darwin for the dry season.

“The exhibition curated by Emeritus Curator of Aboriginal Art and Material Culture at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Margie West AM, will be on display at Casuarina campus from 31 May to 21 July,” Ms Joswig said.

“Yidumduma Bill Harney will attend the opening on Wednesday, 30 May and will also give a floor-talk on Thursday 31 May at 12pm.”

Ms West said Yidumduma Bill Harney was recognised throughout the world as an artist of high esteem.

“He is a charismatic storyteller and artist and the only remaining living custodian of the collective memory, laws and history of his people,” Ms West said.

“This is his first major retrospective exhibition providing national audiences with a fascinating and unique look into his world.”

As a child Yidumduma Bill Harney learned the ways of the Wardaman people from his mother and stepfather and also the stories connected to the ancient rock art seen on the land of his people, including the famous Lightning Brothers site.

His work is widely exhibited, with major paintings held in the National Gallery of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Bond University and the University of Sydney’s Law School. He has been a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award 11 times.

Yidumduma Bill Harney: Bush Professor will run from 31 May to 21 July 2018 at the Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, Building Orange 12, Casuarina campus. For more information visit W: www.cdu.edu.au/artgallery

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