Artists of Annindilyakwa Arts, who are pushing the boundaries of their well renown bush dye practice. Photo – Courtesy of Anindilyakwa Media Centre


Stories Of Old + Colours Of New From Anindilyakwa Arts At Laundry Gallery

Laundry Gallery is a contemporary Darwin art gallery that’s all about sharing ‘old stories’ from Indigenous cultures with a ‘new spin’ — and their latest show with Anindilyakwa Arts is doing just that.

The gallery is proudly hosting the first exhibition from the centre’s Men’s Art program, showcasing significant and striking totems and sculptures made locally sourced manganese pigment and wood.

Columnist and Laundry Gallery co-founder Nina Fitzgerald shares how the artists revisited this traditional art form, before ‘Malarra, Angalya akwa Amamardamilya (Rock, Leaf and Land)‘ opens this weekend!

Nina Fitzgerald

They use natural pigments in their works and have developed a new palette of colours, each tone created in close relationship to Country. Photo – Courtesy of Anindilyakwa Media Centre

The beautiful work of the artists brings Anindilyakwa Country into the Laundry Gallery space. Photo – Anindilyakwa Media Centre

The suspended silks capture the delicate imprints of the endemic leaves, roots and barks used by the women during their communal dye practices. Photo – Anindilyakwa Media Centre

‘Everything is about showing two worlds; everything is about who we are. We represent our name and our tribe in our art, we call ourselves through our art.’
– Daniel Ngurruwuthun

Each artist has created a visual representation of totems, stories and songlines, that is significant to them. Photo – Courtesy of Anindilyakwa Media Centre

They’ve worked with locally sourced manganese pigment. Photo – Courtesy of Anindilyakwa Media Centre

The artists have drawn on the characteristically opaque, black background of Anindilyakwa barks to create the basis of their sculptural works. Photo – Courtesy of Anindilyakwa Media Centre

Manganese has long been a feature of Anindilyakwa creative expression – most notably in traditional bark paintings. Photo – Alana Holmberg

Photo – Alana Holmberg

The finished works can be viewed at Laundry Gallery, from Saturday 12 August to Saturday 2 September. Photo – Alana Holmberg

Photo – Alana Holmberg

Photo – Alana Holmberg

Nina Fitzgerald
11th of August 2023

Malarra, Angalya akwa Amamardamilya (Rock, Leaf and Land)‘ is an exploration of Anindilyakwa artists’ traditional and contemporary use of natural pigments as an expression of relationship with Country.

Today, Groote Eylandt (the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria) is well-known for its high-quality manganese deposits, and one of the largest and longest running manganese mines in the world.

However, this naturally occurring pigment has also long been a feature in the creative expression of Anindilyakwa, the peoples of the Groote Archipelago – most notably in their traditional bark paintings. Artists drew on the characteristically opaque, black background of Anindilyakwa barks to create the basis of their sculptural works; experimenting with textured and smooth finishes that are subtly accented by natural wood, carved details and, in one artist’s case, sacred coloured sand.

As part of the revitalised Mens Visual Art program at Anindilyakwa Arts, artists Daniel Ngurruwuthun, Elvis Bara, Sandy Maymuru and Ramish Lalara have worked exclusively with locally sourced manganese pigment and wood to revisit this traditional art form, and create visual representations of totems, stories and song lines, that are significant to each artist.

‘Manganese it’s not really rough, it’s really smooth’ says artist Sandy Maymuru. ‘And the colour inside, it can show you like the night sky. It’s dark but it lets the light come out like stars. It represents Groote Eylandt. It’s our skin, the colour from it. Like our skin, our dance, our paint up’.

The incorporation of manganese into contemporary works extends beyond a nod to traditional art practices. It is a conscious choice to incorporate this culturally and economically valuable element of Country into future, locally led economies, which will continue to strengthen as the long-running manganese mine on Groote Eylandt winds down over the coming decade.

Alongside this exciting innovation from the men, the women of Anindilyakwa Arts have also pushed the boundaries of their well-renowned silk bush dye practice. This communal practice sees the women utilise traditional dyeing methods working with leaves, roots and barks endemic to the landscape. Excitingly, familiar inky and brown tones are now transcended by new hues of green, purple and pink, a new palette of colours in close relationship with the pristine landscape of the Eylandt.

“To me the scarves look like the rocks and all the different layers of the land, the trees and the bush. The spirits live all around in the trees and through the bush and when you are near the caves you can feel them floating. You can see these colours in the paintings in the caves, on the rock walls and when you sit there and look by yourself you can feel all the spirits moving,” says Bernadette Watt, an artist involved in the collective.

Malarra, Angalya akwa Amamardamilya (Rock, Leaf and Land) is stories of old and colours of new, and opens at Laundry Gallery Saturday 12 August, and runs until September 2nd.

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