Naminapu Maymuru-White

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Naminapu Maymuru-White. Image courtesy the artist and Buku Larrŋgay Mulka. Photo: David Wickens

Naminapu Maymuru-White is a contemporary artist of the Maŋgalili clan whose homeland is at Djarrakpi at the base of Cape Shield, the northern perimeter of Blue Mud Bay, Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Naminapu’s work references Maŋgalili country, and particularly the ‘outside story’ or origin story of the Maŋgalili using the miny’tji or sacred clan design for the sandscapes of Djarrakpi. The outside story places the night sky and sea at the centre, whereby the soul’s journey from life to death to rest to rebirth is conducted through water. The night sky is an astral body of water where Maŋgalili souls, both deceased and yet to be born, are seen today in the Milky Way. 

Naminapu Maymuru-White began to paint at the age of 12, taught by her uncle Narritjin Maymuru, as well as by her own father, Nänyin Maymuru. Both men were extremely able and well-known artists, whose works hang in many Australian and international museums. As one of the first Yolŋu women to be taught to paint miny’tji (sacred creation clan designs), she was part of the historic adaptations by the Elders of the Yolŋu in the last forty years. This includes the revelation of previously restricted designs in pursuit of justice in the Land Rights struggle (for example The Bark Petition and The Yirrkala Church Panels). Her works are of historic and continuing significance as a Maŋgalili clan member and contemporary artist in her own right. The introduction of print making into her practice has influenced the visual, textural and overall compositional nature of her works, as distinct from artists brought up solely in the strict canon of dhuyu (sacred) bark painting.

Naminapu’s works were exhibited very successfully with those of Dr Banduk Marika (dec), another Yirrkala woman artist, at a dual exhibition held in Warrnambool and Sydney in 1990. Her works are also frequently included in group exhibitions in Australia and overseas and she is now herself represented in most major institutional collections in the country. In August 1996, at the 13th Telstra National Aboriginal and Islander Art Awards, her limited-edition lino print triptych Nyapilingu was chosen as the ‘Best Work on Paper’. In 1998, she was selected as the National Indigenous Heritage Art Award Joint Runner-up Normandy Art Award (for her bark Maŋgalili). One of her memorial poles with the Milŋiyawuy (or milky way design) won the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D award at the 2005 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

With numerous solo and important group projects behind her, Nami has recently accelerated her rate of innovation. As one of the first to adopt printmaking, her work has always been distinguished from artists brought up solely in the strict canon of dhuyu (sacred) bark painting. It requires different tools, techniques and vision to create a lino, screen-print, woodcut or collagraph. Her compositions have recently become even more fluid and unrestrained and this distinguishes her as unique amongst other Yolŋu artists. During 2019 and 2020, Naminapu's works were featured in sell-out solo exhibitions, River of Stars at Salon Art Projects, Darwin and Approximately Infinite Universe at The Cross Arts Projects, Sydney.

Her works were recently acquired for the RESONANCES exhibition at Fondation Opale, Switzerland in 2020; added to the Kerry Stokes Collection of significant larrakitj from 2001-2021; acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to be shown in a major survey of female bark painters from North East Arnhemland, entitled Bark Ladies (forthcoming, 2022); as well as commissioned for acquisition by Kluge-Ruhe Collection for inclusion in Maḏayin-eighty years of bark painting from Yirrkala, a major US touring exhibition slated for 2022.

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