• By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents

    30 November to 21 December 2019 (Closed for New Year Holidays. Re-opening 23 January, exhibition continues to 1 Feb 2020)

The Cross Art Projects. Buku-Larrngay Mulka Logo

Presented with Buku-Larrngay Mulka Art Centre

By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents

Part I: Yolngu / Makassan Crossings
Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra & Nawurapu Wunungmurra

30 November to 21 December 2019

Closed for New Year Holidays. Re-opening 23 January, exhibition continues to 1 Feb 2020


 “Yolŋu invited the Makassan people to their camp and explained to them who they were. Makassans explained who they were and why they came. In their heart they were Yolŋu people. The Makassan taught the Yolŋu their song and traditions and the Yolŋu taught the Makassan their culture and law and tradition." – Dhuwarrwarr Marika, artist statement, Telstra National Indigenous and Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, 2019.

By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents garners the notion of reciprocity inherent in the term ‘exchange’ or trade between the monsoon coast of northern Australia and the Indonesian archipelago. The ‘open archipelago’ has passed from living memory but memories of extended families, grave sites, rock art and ceremonies survive. Dhuwarrrwarr Marika's father Mawalan Marika, for example, painted about the Makassan people in the 1940s and spoke some Makassan language (Malay). The exhibition By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents presents powerful bark paintings, larrakitj, prints and works on paper by the following generations: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Nawurapu Wunungmurra and Nawurapu's niece Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra (in her debut exhibition), who continue to draw upon this fascinating counter-history.

This is the first in a series of exhibitions by contemporary artist networks in the region to be held during 2020 that present a complex narrative involving many world civilizations to defy to the singular 'discovered by Captain Cook' story.

To some, including academic Regina Gantner, “The telling of the Macassan stories has become an act of resistance. It refuses to allow a government decision to sever the link to Macassar, Timor and Sama Bajo places.” Other scholars working in anthropology and archaeology and a few museum exhibitions and permanent exhibits keep the flame burning. The standout museum exhibit is acknowledged as historian Peter Spillett’s epic counterpoint to the 1988 Bicentennial of British annexation: a reconstructed perahu called Hati Marege / Heart of Arnhem Land made for a voyage from Makassar to make landfall at Galiwin’ku and Yirrkala, now in the Maritime Museum, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory. Spillett also worked with Yolŋu to connect family lines across the archipelago.

In 1947, senior ceremonial leaders at Yirrkala produced hundreds of vibrant crayon drawings compiled by anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt now at the Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia. Dhuwarrwarr Marika draws inspiration from her father Mawalan Marika's work entitled Macassan swords and long knives (1947) a work featured in the exhibition catalogue Yirrkala Drawings (AGNSW, 2013). The swords can be seen as symbols of the relationship that Yolŋu shared with the seafaring Macassans. In the 1960s, Mawalan Marika was also a key informant for Campbell Macknight while working on his doctoral research on the trepangers, published as The Voyage to Marege: Macassan trepangers in northern Australia (1976). In this classic work Macknight presents “Australia's first modern industry”.

Yolŋu oral, dance and visual traditions are emphatically alive today: in 2015 Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre initiated an ongoing Makassan / Yolgnu history exchange project. Artist and senior law man Nawurapu Wunungmurra traveled to Makassar in 2015 and his batik, a collaboration with batik artisans from Pekalongan in Central Java, was presented to the Textile Museum in Jakarta in 2017. Nawurapu Wunungmurra's bark paintings and larrakitj show the distinctive glyph-like monsoon clouds, winds and ocean currents of the complex monsoon system that powered the trade. These dynamic sea passages were sailed by expert captains on perahu (prahu) with multi-cultural crews—Makassarese, Butonese, Bugis, Bajau, Madurese and ‘Koepangers’ from Dutch Timor. They crossed the deep channels of the archipelago via Timor to the northern Australian coastline guided by the stars.

Strategically located between western and eastern Indonesia, Makassar (or Macassar) was the centre of Gowa Sultanate who adopted Islam (in 1605) with its sword belts and talismanic discs before the sultanate was conquered by the Portuguese. There is much that is alive and open to interpretation about the trade. Dates for example differ with some researchers citing trade beginnings using the records of conquest by the Dutch East India Company (c. 1669), while others cite Flinders or Baudin (1803). in Dhuwarrwarr Marika's Milnurr, 2019 (natural pigments on bark) depicts a “Malay Road” as described by Mathew Flinders.

At the onset of the northwest winds that usually arrive in December, a fleet of 50 or more perahu left Makassar in South Sulawesi. After ten or so days they made landfall on Marege the coast from Melville Island to Arnhem Land and down into Yanyuwa traditional country in the Gulf of Carpentaria—a distance of over 1000kms. Or they turned towards Kayu Jawa (the Kimberley). All are lands and waters occupied by Aboriginal nations. The two groups entered into a series of reciprocal negotiations for the right to spend 4-5 months collecting and processing trepang. Local communities were linked to an international trading network. Trepang fishers returned home again via Timor with the southeast trade winds.

Federation cut twentieth century Australia off from the world with taxes, charges and the Immigration Restriction Act (1901) that formed the basis of the White Australia Policy and an aggressive nation state. Makassan trepangers were outlawed at the urging of missionary groups and greed to establish a second Singapore.  The last voyage took place during the 1906–07 wet season when people who had sailed the waters for generations were summarily evicted.

Academic Marcia Langton notes, “the trade was absorbed as innovations in philosophy and practice in the performing and visual arts”.  Material items traded included dugout canoes, woven fibre sails, steel knives and other metals, hooks, fishing lines, beads and metals as well as tobacco, cards, money and alcohol. Returning perahu added pearl and tortoise shell and artefacts to their valuable cargo of smoked trepang. Woven cloth, another traded item, remains important in Yolngu and Tiwi welcoming and mortuary ceremonies and painting documented the connections. More recently, Darwin Festival has incubated links in music and theatre performance, but rarely in the visual arts.

Makassan and Malay influences live on in language, ceremonies, songs, dances and art works and museum objects. Makassan pidgin became a lingua franca along the north coast, not just between Makassan and Aboriginal people, but also between different Aboriginal groups.  Along the shore they left tamarind trees and lines of stone to support cooking pots to boil, smoke and cure the flesh to be used as a delicacy in a soup and considered by the Chinese an aphrodisiac.

Trepang fishing in some areas also led to the development of property rights which determined the right to capture trepang. Ancestral coastal estates extend well out into the sea and include the near-shore making trade history relevant to mounting legal arguments about native title. In 2008 the High Court made the Blue Mud Bay decision granting traditional Yolgnu owners exclusive native title rights to the intertidal zone. First Nations people once again control access to the waters of a major fishery. Indigenous art and exhibitions such as Saltwater (1999) and Dalkiri: Standing on their names (2010) have helped non-Indigenous people to understand how the law codifies and maps obligations to the land, sea and sky.

It is now time to survey the 250th anniversary of the landing of James Cook and crew at Botany Bay. The significance of the Hati Marege / Heart of Arnhem Land and the perahu’s subversive overturning of the foundational narrative of Captain Cook and the Endeavour and the unilateral British land claim has not been lost: from Johnny Bulunbulun and Maningrida dancers performing in Makassar (1993) to the ongoing Makassar-Yirrkala Artist Exchange begun by Nawurapu Wunungmurra in 2015, northern Australia looks to a poly-cultural future.  

By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents  provokes us to look to all the seafaring comings and goings from the north through the straits between the islands of the archipelago by representatives of all world civilisations. In a political region of closed borders and the parlous state of minorities can art continue to open up new routes for dialogue? By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents grafts an ancient trade route to offer another dimension of mercantile success and cultural complexity. The past retains an inevitable trajectory towards a closer relationship despite the militarisation of borders.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

 By the Stars, Wind & Ocean Currents | Part I: Yolngu / Makassan Crossings at The Cross Art Projects. Installation shot.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Installation. Back wall: Bark paintings and Larrakitj by Nawurapu Wunungmurra. Forground: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Milnurr, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 77 x 62 cm.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Bark painting and Larrakitj by Nawurapu Wunungmurra (detail).

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Milnurr, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 77 x 62 cm

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

L: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Makassan Swords & Long Knives, 2019. Collograph print on Hanhemuhle paper, 53 x 78 cm. R: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Makassan Prahu, 2016. Etching and aquatint, 40 x 40 cm (11-16-29/30).

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Makassan Prahu, 2016. Etching and aquatint, 40 x 40 cm (11-16-29/30)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra, Wunupini, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 97 x 48 cm (4681-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra, Wunupini, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 110 x 54 cm (1885-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Yalanbara, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 138 x 72 cm (4523-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

L to R: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Makassan Swords & Long Knives, 2019, 91 x 35 cm (4608-19). Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Gan'kurr, Noṉda, Nukaliya, 150 x 45 cm (1438-19).
Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Swords/Serpents, 2019, 162 X 75 cm (3823-19). Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra, Wanupini, 54 x 131 cm (3316-19). Nawurapu Wunungmurra, Wanupini, 2017, 122 x 43 cm (1438-17). Nawurapu Wunungmurra, Njarrpiya Octopus at Gurrumuru, 2017, 140 x 58 cm (3364F). All: Earth pigments on stringybark. 

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

L: Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra, Wunupini, 2019, 110 x 47 cm (5808-19). R: Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra, Wunupini, 2019, 127 x 37 cm (4120-19). All: Earth pigments on stringybark.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Makassan Swords & Long Knives, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 91 x 35 cm (4608-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Gan’kurr, Nonda, Nukaliya, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 150 x 45 cm (1438-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Swords/Serpents, 2019, natural pigments on bark, 162 X 75 cm (3823-19)

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Art Exhibition at The Cross Art Projects. By the Stars: Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bulthirrirri Wununmurra & Nawurapu Wununmurra. 2019

Barayuwa Mununggurr and Whaiora Tukaki visit By the Stars, Wind and Ocean Currents. Barayuwa inform Belle Blau and Freÿa Black more about these legacy works by his late uncle Nawurapu Wunungmurra.

Artists

Dhuwarrwarr Marika (born c.1946)

The Marika family are highly regarded as gifted artists and able educationalists, cultural ambassadors, environmentalists, and activists. Dhuwarrwarr is sister of Wandjuk, Baynul and Banduk Marika. Their father Mawalan was the Rirratjinu ceremonial leader who in 1935 welcomed anthropologist Donald Thompson followed by missionaries to set up on his land, creating the beginnings of modern day Yirrkala.

Dhuwarrwarr Marika is the first Yolnu woman authorised to paint sacred designs on her own. Dhuwarrwarr’s first career was in nursing (at Yirrkala, Darwin and then Sydney). On returning home she focused on her artistic gifts learning basketry from her mother and aunt and painting from her father Mawalan 1 who was steeped in in the mythology of his people.

Mawalan worked with Europeans but never lost his foTndness and respect for Makassans and stressed the importance of the relationship between Yolnu and these allies. Dhuwarrwarr Marika recounts, “… The Makassan taught the Yolngu their song and traditions and the Yolngu taught the Makassan their culture and law and tradition.

Mawalan 1 and his brothers were all accomplished artists and passionate advocates of Indigenous rights. It was their involvement in the historic Gove Land Rights Case that led to the passing of the first land rights legislation in Australia. Dhuwarrwarr Marika continues this work in education and on committees and as an executive member and women’s council representative for the Northern Land Council.

She says: I’m teaching my brother’s children for all the painting as well as my children. I used to ask them to come and watch me. I use my own colours from the shore - the yellow and the red, just a rock, and the black, bayanu (not) charcoal. Like my brother (Wandjuk), I sometimes mix yellow and black to make green. I used to go and get it in a bucket and mash it up and leave it in the sun to dry.”

Dhuwarrwarr Marika has participated in group shows since the late 1980s and is represented in most Australian state galleries. In 2010 the National Museum of Australia presented Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu an exhibition of artworks by the Marika family exploring the journey of the Djang’kawu ancestors.

Bulthirrirri Wunungmurra

Bulthirrirri is an emerging artist and the daughter of great painter and sculptor Nawurapu Wunungmurra (dec). Under the guidance of her father (recently deceased) Bulthirrirri is following and maintain her family’s rich heritage through her own hand.

Nawurapu Wunungmurra b. 1952 – 2018

Nawurapu Wunungmurra was the eldest son of the late Yangarriny Wunungmurra, the 1997 Telstra National Aboriginal and Islander Art Award overall First Prize winner. Yangarriny was one of the artists of the legendary Yirrkala Church Panels. He had been trained in the school of this old man (who was the first Aboriginal artist to have his copyright recognised in an Australian court) from an early age, at first assisting his father and then in his own right. On his father’s passing Nawurapu stepped into his role as a senior Yirritja moiety elder with his brothers. His ceremonial responsibilities required him to move between the homeland centres of the Miwatj region, North East Arnhem land and even beyond into Central Arnhem land. He lived at Yirrkala, Gurrumurru, Gangan, Gapuwiak and Wandawuy in his later years.

Nawurapu participated in all the major Yirrkala exhibitions in the 1990s and held his first solo show at Sydney’s Grant Pirrie Gallery in 2004. In 2006 the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory purchased Nawurapu’s entry to Telstra National Aboriginal and Islander Art Award. He became renowned in the contemporary artworld for his sculptural installations of mokuy (Yolngu spirit figures), the first set being purchased by the Queensland Art Gallery in 2008. His major contemporary exhibitions include Optimism at the Gallery of Modern Art in 2008 and the third Moscow Biennale in 2009. In 2010 Nawurapu won the inaugural Telstra New Media prize with a set of film illuminated mokuy carvings at the 27th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. His bronze mokuy figures are also installed at the heart of Darwin’s Waterfront by the Northern Territory Government.


Source: Will Stubbs, “Nawurapu Wunungmurra: Tribute,” Artlink, March 21, 2018. https://www.artlink.com.au/articles/4664/nawurapu-wunuC58Bmurra/

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre (Will Stubbs, Dave Wickens Andrew Blake); Yirrkala Print Space (Ruth Pearson); at The Cross Art Projects Freÿa Black, Belle Blau, Simon Blau, Susan Gilligan, Jo Holder. Special thanks to Elaine Baker and Catriona Moore.

References

Marshall Clark and Sally K. May eds., Macassan History and Heritage Journeys, Encounters and Influences, 2013, Australian National University e-Press.
Regina Ganter, Mixed Relations: Asian/Aboriginal contact in north Australia (2003, 2005, 2006), University of Western Australia Press. Gantner’s work inspired other scholars including Peta Stephenson and Marcia Langton.  
Regina Gantner, ‘Muslim Histories of Australia’, La Trobe Journal, 2012, no 89.
‘The Marayarr Murrkundja Ceremony Goes to Makassar’, 1993, Barwinanga Aboriginal Corporation, Maningrida, NT.
Charles Campbell Macknight, Voyage to Marege. Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1976.
Marcia Langton, A. Duschatzky and S. Holt eds., Trepang: China and the story of Macassan–Aboriginal trade, 2011, Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, Museum Victoria.
Peta Stephenson, The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story, 2007, UNSW Press.

Exhibitions (selected)

1988: The long distance prahu named Hati Marege was commissioned for Australia’s Bicentennial sails from Makassar to northern Australia, now in Maritime Museum Darwin. 1993: An exchange between Maningrida Arts and Culture and Ramingining began when Johnny Bulunbulun (1946-2010) and Ramingining Dancers performed the 3-day Marayarr Murrukundja ceremony, documented in Djomi Museum, Maningrida. Works from Bulunbulun’s series are in the National Maritime Museum, Sydney and Balla Lompoa Museum. 2011: exhibition by Bulunbulun with Zhou Xiaoping (China/Aus) at Museum Victoria. 2015: Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre's iMakassan / Yolgnu history exchange project to date projects include Nawurapu Wunungmurra's visit to Makassar (2015) and a collaborative batik with batik makers from Pekalongan in Central Java (presented to the Textile Museum in Jakarta in 2017); a ceramics exchange and an exhibition by three Yolgnu and three Makassan artists.

Notes

The trepang fishers came from different maritime trade islands but are all commonly labelled ‘Macassans’. (Language groups identified by Fox and Sen 2002). The financial backers of the voyages, who remained behind in Makassar, might be Chinese, Dutch or Malay. In most cases the captain was Makassar or Bugis. Makassan word teripang also beche-de-mer or edible sea cucumber is an echinoderm of the class Holothuroidea containing more than 1000 species. These marine animals live predominantly in tropical waters. About 500 Makassan words are still in use: examples include rupiah, jama or work, and balanda or white person.