Organized by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

Exploring Yolŋu Art and Ideas

See below for special programming and events which accompanied MAḎAYIN at American University Museum at the Kazten Center, March 31–April 2, 2023

This colorful series of conversions, film screenings, talks and performances will introduce you to the people behind Madayin –Yolŋu artists and knowledge holders from northern Australia. Matha Ŋupanmi translates to “exploring each other’s words.” Witness a Yolŋu ceremonial performance. Explore the intricate patterning of Yolŋu bark paintings. Listen to Yolŋu leaders elaborate on their deep interconnections of place, identity and patterns in dialogue with First Nations and non-Indigenous scholars and curators. Watch short films that bring Country and culture to life. Experience one of the world’s greatest artistic traditions from the perspective of those who shaped it.


W. Wanambi Distinguished Lecture – Dr. Jilda Andrews

The Phillips Collection at 1pm Friday March 31, 2023, Livestream on the Kluge-Ruhe YouTube Channel

Dr. Jilda Andrews

Historical Collections as Sites of Cultural Diplomacy 
Dr. Jilda Andrews, Ph.D.

The world’s museums feature extensive collections of cultural material made by Indigenous Australians, collected over extended periods in the context of programs of disciplinary inquiry. The disciplines, their methods, and museums themselves today face a kind of public reckoning that not only questions the historical processes involved in the making of these collections, but also poses the question of what it means to maintain such collections and institutions. Underlying these questions is often the presumption that institutions operated and continue to operate without Indigenous agency, power, or control.

This lecture seeks to explore a different presumption: it considers museum collections as containing forms of historic cultural diplomacy enacted by Indigenous people themselves – as expressive of their desire to extend and deepen knowledges of culture and experience across cultural worlds. If we are prepared to recognize this as a legitimate form of agency, we can re-frame the world’s museums, from sites of ongoing colonization and dispossession to sites of cultural strength with the potential to shape and inform stronger, intercultural futures.

Jilda Andrews is a Yuwaalaraay cultural practitioner and museum ethnographer based in Canberra, Australia. She draws from her heritage to recognize the cultural ecologies surrounding objects in museum collections. Her focus on material culture and their cultural worlds continue to push the definition of custodianship, from one that focuses on the preservation of objects, to one that is active in maintaining connections between cultural material and the dynamic systems that produce them. Jilda is a research fellow with the National Museum of Australia and the Australian National University, based in the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, and proudly serves as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia.

The W. Wanambi Distinguished Lecture is a part of the collaboration between The Phillips Collection and the Department of Art at the University of Virginia.

Registration required

This event will be livestreamed on the Kluge-Ruhe YouTube Channel

Yolŋu Ceremonial Celebration

American University Museum at the Katzen Center | 6pm Friday 31 March, 2023

image at left – Madayin photographed at the Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, NH, on Friday, September 23, 2022.
Copyright 2022 Rob Strong

Yolŋu artists and leaders will provide a ceremonial performance with a procession, yidaki (didjeridu) and bilma (clapping sticks) to culturally and spiritually open the exhibition.

This program will also feature a Welcome to Country.

A reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres will follow.

Click here to register for this event.

Matha Ŋupanmi: A Summit of Yolŋu Art & Ideas

Abramson Family Recital Hall at the Katzen Center (American University) from 9am–4pm Saturday, April 1, 2023, Livestream on the Kluge-Ruhe YouTube Channel

image at left – Kade McDonald, Wäka Munuŋgurr, Djambawa Marawili AM and Margo Smith AM speaking at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2017.

This day of conversations and short films will feature Yolŋu artists and leaders, curators, art historians and anthropologists exploring Yolŋu art and culture from a rich variety of perspectives.

STEWARDING THE LAND: How have Yolŋu people always practiced environmental stewardship? How does this practice connect to painting? How does it relate to Yolŋu land rights over the past eight decades?

HARVESTING THE LAND: What can we learn from how Indigenous peoples sustainably harvest and gather elements of nature – for art-making, food, medicine and more? How do these practices inform Yolŋu art?

INDIGENOUS VOICES IN MUSEUMS: What are new ways that museums are engaging Indigenous peoples as key stakeholders in their leadership and work?

YOLŊU ART TOMORROW: Yolŋu artists are some of the most innovative contemporary artists today; what are Yolŋu artists doing now and what will they come up with next?

Speakers include:

Artists: Gunybi Ganambarr, Ishmael Marika, Dhamarra Munuŋgurr, Milminyinga Dhamarrandji, Bulmirri Yunupingu and Binygurr Wirrpanda.

Arts administrators: Doŋga Maymuru (Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka), Kade McDonald (Agency Projects) and David Wickens (Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka).

Scholars: Professor Clare Wright OAM (La Trobe University), Mayatili Marika (Yothu Yindi Foundation/University of Melbourne) and Dr. Jilda Andrews (Australian National University and National Museum of Australia).

Curators: Dr. Jami Powell (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth), Dr. Vanessa Russ (University of Melbourne), Dr. Jessyca Hutchens (Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia), Julie Banks (University of Melbourne) and Dr. Henry Skerritt (University of Virginia).

Registration required

This event will be livestreamed on the Kluge-Ruhe YouTube Channel

Curators' Tour of Madayin

American University Museum at the Katzen Center | 2-3pm Sunday April 2, 2023

Join Henry Skerritt, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at the University of Virginia for a very special guided tour of MAḎAYIN. Skerritt was part of the curatorial team behind the exhibition, and will be joined by other members of the curatorial team to offer insights into this landmark exhibition.