Barrupu Yunupingu Unititled (Ancestral Fire)
Barrupu Yunupingu. Unititled (Ancestral Fire)

As I said earlier – if this is September then it must be Alice Springs.

It isn’t all that often that artwork from the Top End of the NT makes it’s way to central Australia but the Raft Artspace, run by Dallas Gold out of a large shed in the industrial area is showing a stack of new bark paintings by Barrupu Yunupingu, who works at the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre at Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem land.

Barrupu & Nyapanyapa Yunupingu
Barrupu & Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

Also opening today at the Raft Artspace is survey show of vibrant new works from artists based at the Mimili community, on the Yankunytjatjara lands in northern South Australia.

Tuppy Goodwin from Mimili
Tuppy Goodwin from Mimili has a laugh

Both shows are part of the Alice Desert Festival and will run through to 2 October.

I’m not all that familiar with the works from Mimili but I’ve long had a high regard for Barrupu Yunupingu’s work and the cohort of senior women that work at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka.

Barrupu Yunupingu. Untitled (Ancestral Fire)
Barrupu Yunupingu. Untitled (Ancestral Fire)

The short essay in the catalogue for the shows by Barrupu and Nyapanyapa from Andrew Blake of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka reveals some of Barrupu’s artistic and personal history.

Barrupu is the daughter of Munggurrawuy. Her siblings include Australians of the Year Galarrwuy and Mandawuy and Telstra First Prize winner – Gulumbu. Her mother from the Marrakulu clan was Bunay Wanambi. Her closest sister is Nyapanyapa with whom she has worked primarily as print artists through Buku-Larrnggay since 1996

Among the earliest paintings ever collected from Yirrkala were by Barrupu’s father. The imagery produced by Barrupu’s paintings of sacred Gumtaj clan designs of The Fire are the closest thing seen in recent generations to those early works…In 2009, her large works were first shown. Barks of Ancestral Fire were painted by Barrupu in the courtyard just outside Buku-Larrnggay’s Gallery 2 space where “The Room of Fire’ was hung during Garma the same year.

Throngs of people bustled through the spaces but such was the power of these large works viewers were unable to bear the intensity of the exhibition. Only the brave hearted, and there were very few, shielded their brows and entered elbow first into the maelstrom. It was truly an astonishing art event…it is hoped that people in Alice Springs celebrating the Desert Mob weekend at Raft Artspace experience the integrity and truth provided by the tongue of Ancestral Flames.

Part of the crowd at the opening of the Raft Artspace show
Part of the crowd at the opening of the Raft Artspace show

* Barrupu shows up in the Desert – New Works by Barrupu Yunupingu will run at the Raft Artspace, 8 Hele Crescent Alice Springs until October 2 2010.