"The sun rises and sets, painting the clouds. The spirits are born and die, to be reborn once more. Makassan friends from Indonesia visit for trade, arriving with the northern monsoon and departing on the winds associated with bulunu (the south-east cloud formations that bring rain). This painting charts the Djapana song cycle (djapana means "sunset" in Yolŋu Matha and "farewell" in the Indonesian dialect of Bugis). The anvil and triangular shapes are clouds, pregnant women and the sails of red perahu (Indonesian fishing boat). This takes place at the marŋarr (an ancestral Makassan port) in the artist's Dhaḻwaŋu clan estate at Gurrumuru, upstream from Arnhem Bay. "
– Will Stubbs
Nawurapu Wunuŋmurra has depicted two different representations of the towering cumulonimbus clouds that signal the approaching monsoonal wet season. These clouds are shared by all Yirritja clans as a symbol of the cycle of souls from ocean to cloud, before being reborn as freshwater rain. After several centuries of visits from fisherman from the port of Makassar in Sulawesi, the first clouds on the horizon are also associated with first sightings of the sails of Makassan perahu (boats). In the 1990s Nawurapu played a pivotal role in the removal of figurative elements which had been used by Yolŋu artists to disguise the more abstract maḏayin miny’tji (sacred clan designs). This painting is one of the final works produced by the artist.
– Henry Skerritt and Kade McDonald
Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
59 1/2 x 29 1/8
151 x 74
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.
The 2017-19 Kluge-Ruhe Maḏayin Commission. Purchased with funds provided by Terry Snowball and Machel Monenerkit, 2023.
About The Artist(s)
Nawurapu Wunuŋmurra was the eldest son of Yaŋgarriny Wunuŋmurra and learnt to paint assisting his father. In the 1990s he participated in all the major group projects from Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka, including the 1996 John W. Kluge Commission. A 1995 work by Nawurapu, now held in the Queensland Art Gallery caused controversy among Yolŋu leaders for its absence of figurative imagery, paving the way for the Buwayak movement. In the 2000s, he became renowned as a sculptor and his distinctive mokuy are held in numerous museum collections. In 2009 he was included in the Moscow Biennale and in 2010 he was awarded the inaugural new media prize at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Nawurapu travelled to Makassar in 2015 and a batik from one of his paintings was presented to the Textile Museum in Jakarta.
The British Museum
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
National Museum of Australia