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John Mawurndjul

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John Mawurndjul | Kuninjku language group | Australia b.1952 | Mardayin and Wongkurr (sacred objects and dilly bags) 1994 | Natural pigments on bark | 237 x 112cm (irreg.) | Purchased 1994. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © John Mawurndjul, 1994. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2004.

John Mawurndjul, 'Mardayin and Wongkurr (sacred objects and dilly bags)', 1994

John Mawurndjul
Kuninjku language group
Australia  b.1952
Mardayin and Wongkurr (sacred objects and dilly bags) 1994
Natural pigments on bark
237 x 112cm (irreg.)
Purchased 1994. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
© John Mawurndjul, 1994. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2004.

John Mawurndjul

Mardayin and Wongkurr (sacred objects and dilly bags) 1994

John Mawurndjul was born at Mumeka in the Nothern Territory, an important site for his people, the Eastern Kuninjku of the Kurulk clan. After an informal apprenticeship in bark painting, Mawurndjul developed a unique artistic style.

Though his art stems from the rock painting tradition of the region, Mawurndjul has created a new genre with innovative themes and tapestry-like surface patterning. He has exhibited his work since the 1980s and is recognised both nationally and internationally.

Mardayin and Wongkurr (sacred objects and dilly bags) 1994 is a largely abstract painting in which contrasting blocks of cross-hatching are juxtaposed to express the power of the Mardayin ritual. Though this ancient ceremony is now rarely performed, it has special significance for Mawurndjul as it was his first initiation as a young man.

Images of ritual objects and woven bags are embedded in intricate rarrk (cross-hatched) patterns. These refer to esoteric subjects without revealing their sacred meanings.

White dotted lines connect small, dense circles of pigment, representing light glowing from water plants growing in a billabong recognised by Kuninjku people as a Mardayin ceremonial site.