"My father, Mungurrawuy Yunupiŋu, taught me about the paintings. “This, my daughter, is the way to go, and do this. Whenever you get wood, then you can work on it there.” He taught me like this, my father. He worked at the beach. We used to live in a house at the beach, long ago. My father would paint and show us. “Daughter, this is how you’ll do it after I die, okay, my daughter. This is for you, I have given you this painting,” he said, my father did."
– Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu
A woman of great humility, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu rose to become one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. Hailing from a powerful Yolngu family, Nyapanyapa was the daughter of the statesman and artist Mungurruway Yunupingu, and the younger sister of artist Gulumbu Yunupingu.
Nyapanyapa's work represented a radical shift in Yolngu art history. In 2008, she began to incorporate biographical elements into her paintings, before abandoning figuration altogether. In 2009, she began referring to her works as mayilimiriw—a Yolngu word that translates as “meaningless.” This put her practice in stark contrast to previous generations of Yolngu artists, for whom every mark was intended to invoke the presence of ancestral spirits.
For Maḏayin, at the request of curator Djambawa Marawili, Nyapanyapa returned to the theme of ganyu' (stars) which relate to the Seven Sisters or Pleiades star cluster. According to Nyapanyapa:
Our father Munggurrawuy painted the story of Djulpan. This story is about seven sisters who went out in their canoe called Djulpan. During certain seasons they used to go hunting for food and always come back with different types of food. As you can see they would come back with turtle, fish ,freshwater snakes and also bush foods like yams and berries. They can now be seen in the sky of a night , seven stars that come out together like they are shown on the painting.
The stars come in season when the food and berries come out, the stars w ill travel through the sky during that month until the season is over and they don’t come out until the next season. They are the constellation called Plaiedes and they are being chased by three brothers (Orion). They sail over the Northern horizon and when they get home they light their fires.
Listen to Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu discuss her work:
– Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
91 47/64 x 42 29/32 x 3 11/32
233 x 109 x 8.5
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission. Purchased with funds provided by Bérengère Primat/Fondation Opale, 2019.
About The Artist(s)
Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu was one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. She rose to prominence for her paintings that departed from sacred elements characteristic of Yolŋu art. Hailing from a powerful Yolŋu family, Nyapanyapa is the daughter of the statesman and artist Mungurruway Yunupiŋu and is the younger sister of artist Gulumbu Yunupiŋu. Her works are held in every major public collection in Australia. In 2016 she was featured in the Sydney Biennale, and the Bangarra Dance Theatre performed a work inspired by her life. In 2020, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin held a retrospective of her work, and in 2021, she was awarded the Wynne Prize, one of Australia’s most prestigious landscape painting prizes.
Charles Darwin University Collection
Fondation Opale, Lens, Switzerland
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
Monash University Art Collection
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa