Friday, December 23, 2011

Aboriginal treasures

Artist, art and ceremony from Australia coming to valley

Express Staff Writer

Nawurapu Wunungmurra, Mokoy Spirit Figures will be shown in Ketchum at Harvey Art Projects. Courtesy photo

Art as a cultural exchange will be among the Christmas offerings next week as Harvey Art Projects Gallery presents "Barrku: Treasures From a Distant Land."

The gallery at 391 First Ave. N. in Ketchum is a dedicated Australian indigenous art space, one of a few in the United States. This will be the first-ever exhibit of art on bark from a remote art center in the tiny township of Yirrkala in northeast Arnhem Land in Australia.

"Barrku" has two meanings—far away and something of excellence.

This exhibit of barks, "mokoys" (spirit figures) and "larrikitj" (ceremonial poles) has been almost two years in preparation, and artist Wukun Wanambi and Harvey art adviser Kade MacDonald will be travelling from Australia for both the official opening and to host a community cultural events program that starts Thursday, Dec. 29, at the Community Library in Ketchum. 

Four short films will begin Thursday at 6 p.m., followed by comments by Wanambi and MacDonald, who elaborate on the art and culture of the Yolngu people.

During Friday's Gallery Walk, the exhibit will officially kick off with a traditional ceremony incorporating music and song by Wanambi at 6.30 p.m. at the gallery.

The Buku-Larrngay Mulka art center at Yirrkala was established in 1975 and artists working with the center have won many major awards, including five in a row in the late 1990s for bark painting. According to a press release from curator Julie Harvey, "buku larrngay" in Yolngu means "the first rays of the sun on your face at sunrise" and "mulka" means "to hold or protect." According to the press release, the elders and artists who control the center have a long history of using their art to influence and challenge colonial mainstream forces that have sought to marginalize them. Most famously, in 1963, artists sent a petition on bark to Parliament House in Canberra to protest against mining on their traditional lands.

By the mid 1980s, they were the first Aboriginal group to successfully win a high court challenge to have their lands returned to them as traditional owners. This set a major precedent for other indigenous groups to file successful land title claims.

Yirrkala was perhaps the earliest community in Arhemland to embrace the production of art for these reasons. Yirrkala artists have maintained a strong discipline in their art—using only natural materials and following ancestral designs rigorously.

Wukun Wanambi is the oldest son of Mithili Wanambi, clan leader and renowned painter who passed away in 1981. Wukun learned the sacred designs of his father from elders who had kept the information in trust for him. His first painting was a depiction of Bamurrunu, a sacred, white-domed rock in the middle of Trial Bay. It was the first time the motif had been painted since his father's death.

For more, visit

Barrku events

Where: Harvey Art Projects, 391 First Ave. N., Ketchum

What and when: Thursday, Dec. 29, at 6 p.m., "A Yolgnu World," short films and talk at Community Library.

Friday, Dec. 30, at 6: 30 p.m., Yolgnu ceremonial opening" by Wukun Wanambi, singing and playing the Ydidki at the gallery.

Saturday, Dec. 31, at 10:30 a.m., artist chat with Wanambi at the gallery.

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.