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These three woven pandanus figures portrayed with the tails of fish and hair resembling algal blooms are a recent manifestation of Ancestral beings found in freshwater streams of Western Arnhem Land.

Created by artists Lulu Laradjbi and Marina Murdilnga, the National Museum of Australia acquired the Yawkyawk in 2005.

Three woven grass, mermaid-like yawkyawk sculptures with arms, tails and trailing hair

Yawkyawk sculptures by Kuninjku artists Marina Murdilnga, left, and Lulu Laradjbi, 2005

Mermaid-like forms

Yawkyawk is a word from the Kuninjku/Kunwok language, meaning 'young woman' and 'young woman spirit being'.

Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, Yawkyawk are usually depicted with the tails of fish. They have long hair, associated with trailing blooms of algae, typically found in Arnhem Land streams and rock pools.

Maningrida

Maningrida is in Western Arnhem Land, adjacent to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. The National Museum holds bark paintings and pandanus baskets, mats, armbands and dolls from the area.

These Yawkyawk were acquired through the community-based organisation Maningrida Arts & Culture.

The figures add a new dimension to the National Museum's collection, showing new directions in dynamic fibre craft practices. The Yawkyawk stand between 1.2 and 2.2-metres high.

In our collection

Woven pandanus Yawkyawk sculpture, made by Lulu Laradjbi, 2005Yawkyawk is a word in the Kuninjku-Kunwok language of Western Arnhem Land, meaning 'young woman' and 'young woman spirit dreaming'. Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, they exist as spiritual beings living in freshwater streams and rock pools, particularly those in the stone country of the Arnhem Land escarpme...
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