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Maŋgalili clan, Yirritja moiety

Narritjin Maymuru  - click to view larger image
Narritjin Maymuru. Photo: Howard Morphy

About 1914–1982

‘Artistfella’ is how Narritjin described himself. Not only an artist, he was also a performer, advocate, politician, clan head, ceremonial leader, philosopher and entrepreneur. Narritjin believed in the power of art to transcend cultures. In 1962, he was the instigator and one of the main painters of the Yirrkala Church Panels, and he painted the Aboriginal Bark Petitions in 1963. In 1978, he and his son Banapana were the first Aboriginal artists to be awarded a creative arts fellowship, at the Australian National University.

Before the establishment of an art centre at Yirrkala, Narritjin acted as agent to sell his own and other Maŋalili art at Djarrakpi. Narritjin’s work is in all the major public collections in Australia as well as in Paris and Basel, and at the University of Virginia. His exhibition history dates back to 1949, with Arnhem Land Art at the David Jones Art Gallery in Sydney.

His work has been selected for any major exhibitions, including: Art of Aboriginal Australia, which toured North America in 1974–76; Dreamings, New York, in 1988; The Continuing Tradition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1989; Crossroads: Towards a New Reality, Japan, in 1992; Aratjara, which toured Europe in 1993–94; and Three Creative Fellows: Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Narritjin Maymuru at the Australian National University in 2007.

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