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Joe Ngallametta

Joe_Ngallametta.jpg

Joe Ngallametta | Kugu Muminh/Kugu Uwanh language group | Australia b.1945 | Thap yongk (Law poles) 2002-03 | Carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments | 15 components: 182 x 250 x 250cm (installed, approx.) | Commissioned 2002 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Joe Ngallametta, 'Thap yongk (Law poles)', 2002-03

Joe Ngallametta
Kugu Muminh/Kugu Uwanh language group
Australia b.1945
Thap yongk (Law poles) 2002-03
Carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments
15 components: 182 x 250 x 250cm (installed, approx.)
Commissioned 2002 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Joe Ngallametta

Thap yongk (Law poles) 2002-03

There were these two brothers  .  .  .  at the creation of the world only these two people, they were human, they left these two poles, they made  .  .  .  songs,  I'm making these poles now because they left these poles and how they painted. 

Joe Ngallametta

The Thap yongk or Law poles made by the people of Aurukun in west Cape York express an issue fundamental to Indigenous Australian culture ― the interrelationships of land, culture and the creation time. These Thap yongk represent knowledge about people's affiliations with the land and their responsibilities and rights within its boundaries. While this knowledge is provided through the Dreaming, it plays an ongoing role today and is held in trust by Elders such as Ngallametta and passed on to the younger members of the community.

Representing upturned trees, the Thap yongk extend from the ground, suggesting branches hidden beneath the earth, with the roots at the top. The poles draw the spirits back to the ground, and the 'hidden' branches symbolise the network of stories and laws connecting people to the land and to each other.

Thap yongk are usually only seen by the men of the community, but Ngallametta shares these poles with wider audiences: 'I know your laws: now you can understand mine'.