The Art of Two Brothers: Bob Wanur Namundja and Don Nakadilinj Namundja. Curator Andrew Blake — 24 November to 17 December 2005
Curated by Andrew Blake
Opened by Dr Murray Garde, Linguistic Anthropologist, in the presence of Don Namundja
The Art of Two Brothers presents paintings of Bob Wanur Namundja and Don Nakadilinj Namundja, brothers who share unique qualities of character and presence and a ‘left field’ design sense.
This tribute recognises the brothers’ quiet but substantial contribution to Arnhem Land culture. It coincides with the passing away of Bob Wanur Namundja, the elder brother. Although Bob’s career spanned several decades and his art is held in major public collections and reproduced in important publications, this is his first solo exhibition.
The brothers pay homage to a bush life in their place, called Mankorlod, a place spiritually focal to the Kardbam clan. Their stylised paintings depict the beauty and mystique of the plants, animals, ancestors and creator beings, totems and myths associated with Mankorlod. Both men are Kunwinjku speakers of Nawakaji skin. Bob was the formal authority to Mankorlod. Mankorlod is a small outstation run from Maningrida, comprising some small shelters, school, airstrip, water tank and communications tower. The sacred spring, the Kardbam’s Eden, is some miles walk distant.
The brothers’ oddly metaphysical images describe a rich monsoonal forest pocket: livistona palms, noisy fruit bats and birds, possums in the rock ledges, snakes and echidnas, long yams and fruit and, in the waters made sacred by the Rainbow Serpent, lilies, fish and freshwater prawns.
Don, the younger brother, had a rapid rise to national prominence after his ‘discovery’ a few years ago when painting alongside his mentor Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek AO, one of the region’s most important artists. Don roves somewhat, usually painting at Gunbalanya in the wet and at Bardayal’s camp at Kabulwarnamyo on the upper Liverpool River on the Arnhem stone plateau in the dry. Don is a demure and unassuming bushman in his 50s. This is his first visit to Sydney. The brothers’ images restore our sense of wonder at the natural world.
By Andrew Blake
Wanur Namundja, Mandem, 61 x 41 cm
Wanur Namundja, Palms at Mankorlod, 38 x 53 cm
Nakadilinj Namundja, Mandem Dikkala, 75 x 51 cm
Don Nakadilinj Namundja, Possum, 38 x 53 cm
Don Nakadilinj Namundja, Mankorlod (Sacred Waterholes and Springs, the spiritual birthplace of the Kardbam clan). 76 x 105 cm
Bob Wanur Namundja (born c. 1933)
Bob grew up in the bush around the Mankorlod region of western Arnhem Land. He spent much of his life traveling, participating in ceremonies and maintaining his extended kin network. In addition to this, he worked for three decades as a stockman (‘seemed more like one hundred years’). He and his wife Dianne settled with their four children in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) over two decades ago and he took up painting as a career. Notes courtesy Injalak Arts, Gunbalanya.
Don Nakadilinj Namundja (born 1954)
Immediate acclaim greeted Don’s painting. Writing in 2004, The Australian newspaper’s Nicholas Rothwell said: ‘By any standards this debut exhibition is worthy of sustained attention in the national media.’ The freshness of his work prompted the National Gallery of Australia to acquire two works from the RAFT Artspace in Darwin. He was selected for the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin in 2003 and 2005. His etchings, produced by Basil Hall Editions, were shown at Sydney’s Art on Paper Fair in 2005.
Curator: Andrew Blake
Andrew is manager of Marrawuddi Gallery and a former coordinator of Buku-Larrngay Mulka Art Centre at Yirkalla, where he initiated the major nationally touring exhibition Saltwater: Yirkalla Bark Paintings of Sea Country (1999) now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.