"I went to the United States when they put up an exhibition of my paintings at Kluge-Ruhe. During this time, I traveled around the United States and saw other Yolŋu paintings in museums. A fire came up into my chest seeing those old paintings. So, I and other Yolŋu went back and forth to the United States, looking at all the paintings there and working on the curation of this exhibition.
Yes, the Statue of Liberty, I visited it, went right up to it and looked at it, and when I returned to Bäniyala, I made a painting of it that won a prestigious art award [First Prize, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, 2019]. That was my own original painting—not my own place; the place of that painting is a faraway place (whose, I do not know). But I went there and saw that, and just sort of brought it back home. "
– DR. DJAMBAWA MARAWILI AM
In 2019, Djambawa Marawili's painting Americalili Marrtji | Journey to America was awarded first prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.
Commissioned for the 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission, the work was a personal reflection on Djambawa's central role in the exhibition's development. Kluge-Ruhe director Margo Smith explains, “This astonishing painting symbolizes Marawili’s experience visiting the United States and the historical and contemporary connections that Yolngu people have created overseas through their art.”
The awards' judges concurred, noting:
"This masterwork by a senior Yolŋu man manifests tremendous spirit, power and energy. The scale is remarkable, and Djambawa Marawili’s virtuosic use of natural materials and intricate and complex brushwork, honed over decades of dedicated practice, creates dynamic flows and movement across this immense bark. The personal narrative within the work articulates his leading role in sharing Yolŋu philosophy with the world."
Watch Djambawa discuss the work:
– Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
106 5/16 x 39 3/8
270 x 100
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission.
Purchased with funds provided by Geoffrey Hassall OAM and Virginia Milson, 2020. 2020.0001.001.
About The Artist(s)
Djambawa, Djambawa Marawili, Djambuwa, Miniyawany, Terry
Djambawa Marawili AM is an acclaimed painter, sculptor and printmaker, and is a principal ceremonial leader of the Maḏarrpa clan of the Yolŋu people. He uses art as a tool in his practice as a cultural leader, and many of his artworks express the deep connection of Yolngu people to water and sea. In 1996 he won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for the Best Bark Painting for a painting that is in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. A leader in the interface between non-Aboriginal and Yolngu people, Marawili led a successful campaign resulting in federal recognition of Yolngu sea rights in 2008. He was chosen by the Australian Prime Minister as a member of the Indigenous Advisory Council in 2013 and was named a Member of the Order of Australia. In 2019 he was awarded first prize in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards for his painting Americalili Marrtji | Journey to America, produced for the Maḏayin commission.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
National Crafts Museum, New Delhi
The Open University, Milton Keynes
Queensland University of Technology
Supreme Court of the Northern Territory
Sydney Opera House Collection