An image of Bakarra

John Bulunbulun

(Australia 1946 – 18 Apr 2010)

Maningrida, Arnhem region, Wurdeja, Arnhem region
Language group
Ganalbingu, Arnhem region


Not on display
Further information

John Bulunbulun lived with his wife's family at Wurdeja, not far from the Blyth River in the Northern Territory. He was a member of the Ganalbingu clan, and one of the most important singers and ceremonial men in the northern part of central Arnhem Land. His traditional homeland lay in the Arafura Swamp area. Taught painting by his father, Bulunbulun painted continuously from 1970, having his first solo exhibition at the Hogarth Galleries, Sydney in 1981. He received considerable publicity in 1989 when he took successful action against a Queensland T-shirt maker for illegally reproducing one of his works, a landmark case in Aboriginal intellectual property rights.

‘Bakarra’ 2009 depicts a set of sacred stones, called bakarra, which lay at Gutijwirrka, immersed within tracts of Ganalbingu country, while the deep black strips adorned with delicate floral motifs indicate flowing water. The works is painted in Bulunulun’s distinctive rarrk or crosshatching - with precise and regular bands of red and yellow ochre interspersed with white – employed in combination with bold yellow forms, brilliant white outlining and restrained use of black.

Place of origin
Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Bark painting
natural pigments on bark
139.0 x 59.0 cm
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2015
Accession number
© Estate of John Bulunbulun. Licensed by Copyright Agency