Marrnyula Mununggurr is among the generation of exceptional female artists working at Yirrkala who have been taught to paint by their fathers and grandfathers and are now painting many of the sites and designs that would once have been the sole domain of men. Mununggurr was instructed in painting by her father, Djutjadjutja Mununggurr, and now works closely with her mother, Nonggirrnga Marawili, also an artist. Mununggurr began her career as a printmaker and was for many years the senior printmaker at Yirrkala Printspace. Her attention to detail, consistency in application and clarity of design are informed by this experience.
Art Gallery NSW
I am a Djapu clan woman of the Dhuwa moiety. I was born at Yirrkala but in the bush not at the Hospital. My father is Djutjadjutja Mununggurr. He passed away three years ago. His father was a famous Yolngu leader called Wonggu. Wonggu and Donald Thomson ended the war between Ngapaki (non-Aboriginal) and Yolngu (Aboriginal from East Arnhem land). They also formed the Northern Territory Special Reconnaisance Unit during World War Two. My mother is Nonggirrnga Marawili. Her father was another famous warrior Mundukul who also had many wives and worked with Wonggu to lead the Yolngu. Ever since I was a baby my mother and father have been making art for sale and I have helped them since I was a teenager.
I grew up living at Bayapula near Garthalala homeland before there were any metal houses there. We lived in a normal Yolngu shelter of stringybark and paperbark. Then we moved to Yirrkala and then we made the road back to our homeland at Wandawuy where we lived under tarp and tents and in a bark shelter until the first iron house was built there. I went to the Wandawuy school and was taught by Buwakuthi and Djarpirr, my family members. I used to sit with two of my fathers, Dhakiyarr#2 and Dhunggi who were also sons of Wonggu. They have passed away now. They used to show me how to paint the sacred designs of the freshwater of Wandawuy- the Djapu identity of my home. I used to help them and then they let me do my own small barks of Shark or Thunderman at Wandawuy.
I wanted to be a teacher and I enrolled in Batchelor and taught at Wandawuy but in the end I was tired of all the flying around so I looked for a different job. I began working with Steve Fox as an artworker at Buku-Larrnggay sometime about 1989-90. He took a set of small bark paintings I made, just showing my family going hunting, to an exhibition in Darwin. The National Gallery of Australia bought them. Other people asked me to do things like a poster about feral pigs and one about AIDS in that same ‘story’ style. When Andrew Blake and Diane and their son Will (Wupularri) came to Buku in 1993 they became my adopted family. Andrew is my brother and our two family’s went hunting together almost every weekend. My father showed Andrew how to cut bark and he cut a very big one and gave it to my father to paint. The whole family helped and soon I was painting on big bark myself. In 1994 I won a prize at the Barunga festival for one of my bark paintings. In 1997 a big (three metre) painting by my father won the Best Bark Prize.
In 1995 we started making linocuts at Buku. My sister Rerrkirrwanga and I made the first lino prints. Since that time I have been the Printshop Manager at Buku and working with Nyalung Mununggurr and Araluen Maymuru as a printmaker making linocuts, collagraphs and screenprints. My prints have been exhibited all over Australia and overseas. Last month I was asked to make a screenprint for Michael Long’s testimonial art exhibition.
I have three children who I have brought up whose father is my deceased brother and they are Birrkidjingu a fifteen year old girl, Yiliarr, a fourteen year old boy and Djuwarrpuma a twelve year old boy. My mother, sisters and brothers and all of the children and grandchildren still live between Yirrkala and Wandawuy and hunt, make art and attend ceremony as our family has always done.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
John Kluge Collection, USA
1996 Savode Gallery, Brisbane
1996 Annandale Gallery, Sydney
1996 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra
1995 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra
Don’t Leave me this way: Art in the age of AIDS, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1994 Tyerabarrbowaryoou II. I shall Never Become a White Man, 5th Havana Biennale, Cuba andd Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
1994 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra
1993 Sayin’ Something, Aboriginal Art in NSW, 10 Years of Land Rights in NSW, Boomalli Aboriginal Artists, Sydney and NSW Land Council
1993 National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra