An image of Yukuwa

Djirrirra Wunungmurra

(Australia 1968 – )

Gangan (Blue Mud Bay), Arnhem region
Language group
Dhalwangu, Arnhem region


Not on display
Further information

Djirrirra Wunungmurra is a Dhalwangu artist from Gurrumurru, near Yirrkala. She comes from a renowned artistic family. Her father, Yangarriny Wunungmarra and brother Nawurapu Wunugnmarra, are known for their epic bark paintings depicting major Dhalwangu narratives and have taught Wunungmurra the exceptional skills that distinguish her artworks.

'Yukuwa 2011' by Wunungmurra marks a dramatic shift in her practice and more widely, in bark painting traditions. Previously Wunungmurra’s works have epitomised the highly geometric style for which Yirrkala is recognised, with intricate fields of rarrk (cross hatching) forming precise geometric patterns. In such works the shimmering effect of the rarrk reflects the power of the site or story represented. However, in 'Yukuwa', Wungunmurra has avoided precise geometry and eliminated the use of rarrk, as well as reducing her palette.

This paring back of traditional forms of representation and ways of painting is highly appropriate as Wunungmurra is painting Yukuwa, a yam, which is also one of her names, making the work a form of self portrait. Yukuwa is associated with a renewal ceremony shared by all Yirritja moiety clans and involves the exchange of sacred objects, songs and dance. Traditionally the invitation to this ceremony takes the form of a yam with strings ending in feathered flowers attached to it, reflecting the kinship lines that bind people and are celebrated in the Yukuwa ceremony.

In 'Yukuwa 2011', Wunungmurra has elegantly painted the intertwining tendrils of the yam, adorned with feathered flowers. The subtle variations in the details of these flowers are reminiscent of traditional infilling techniques and give the work a lace-like appearance. The inherent simplicity in this work belies Wunungmurra’s skill in transforming her cultural inheritance and offering innovative forms of representation.

Place of origin
Yirrkala, North-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Bark painting
natural pigments on bark
168.0 x 40.0 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2012
Accession number
© Djirrirra Wunungmurra. Licensed by Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre