Arnhem Land to Wadawurrung country

November 17, 2023 BY

The work of artist Mary Dhapalany will be included in the exhibition. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/BULA'BULA ARTS

An exhibition showcasing the work of 19 First Nations artists from the Northern Territory is headed for Geelong.

Titled Barrku wanga/going to a faraway place, the exhibition features paintings and weavings that interpret the stories of Yolngu cultural lore learned through song and dance.

Exhibiting artists are part of the Bula’bula Arts Centre located in Ramingining, Arnhem Land, 400km east of Darwin.

The arts centre represents a spectrum of the 16 clan families who live in the area and plays a role in the preservation of traditional practices, ceremonies, language, art and spirituality.

The name Bula’bula translates as the tongue, or voice of the kangaroo.

Peter Gambung is an elder for the Gupapuyngu people of North East Arnhem Land. His work will also appear in the exhibition


The exhibition evolved with the support of Platform Arts, the Northern Territory government, and the Australian government’s Indigenous visual arts industry support program.

Bula’bula Arts executive director Mel George said it was exciting to be able to bring artists and their work from Arnhem Land to Geelong.

The exhibition is dedicated to Geelong specifically and involves Yolngu artists travelling to meet with local Wadawurrung artists and explore the region.

“We jumped at the chance to connect with a smaller city such as Geelong and meet with Wadawurrung people,” she said.

“Coming from remote Ramingining, we’re so far away, and our town has only 700 people.

“Yolngu people don’t have many opportunities to travel, and when they do, it’s often to major cities, which can be overwhelming.

Artist and Bula’bula Arts chair, Andrew Wanamilil Malibirr (pictured), will attend the exhibition’s opening event on November 18 along with artist Steve Wanamilil Malibirr and Bula’bula Arts executive director, Mel George. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/BULA’BULA ARTS


“We’ve found regional parts of Australia excel at hosting meaningful connections, and any time we can connect Yolngu people with other mob across Australia is to help them share their unique culture and stories of their country.”

Yolngu artists have a strong artistic tradition that sees them only use the source colours of red, yellow, black and white.

Their artworks carry deep ritual and spiritual significance and those included in the exhibition explore a variety of complex social structures including ceremonies, language, creation beings, identity, as well as the relationships between all things.

“We know the local audience will enjoy connecting to these ancient stories through the medium of visual arts,” George said.

Yolngu artists have a strong artistic tradition that sees them only use the source colours of red, yellow, black and white. PHOTO: SUPPLIED


Barrku wanga/going to a faraway place will run from tomorrow (Saturday, November 18) to December 15.

An opening event will be held on November 18 between 2-6pm and will be attended by three of the exhibiting Yolngu artists.

The event is free to attend and will include a demonstration by artists Andrew Wanamilil Malibirr and Steve Wanamilil Malibirr of the intricate rarrk technique used by Yolngu people.

Platform Arts is at at 60 Little Malop Street, Geelong and is open from Monday to Friday.

For more information, head to platformarts.org.au/events/barrku-wanga

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