Temporary Exhibition | Updated 10 years ago

Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, Sydney
Mawalan 1 Marika. Djang'kawu, 'Ancestral Being of the Dhuwa Moiety' Carvings 1960.

Yalangbara: Art of the Djang'kawu is an exhibition that goes to the heart of Aboriginal culture. The Marika family, who are part of the Yolngu people of North-East Arnhem Land, are well-known and highly regarded for their stunning traditional artwork. The exhibition uses paintings, decorated objects and carvings that convey a strong sense of place and ancestral meaning to open up a dialogue about Indigenous rights and the role of Indigenous art in the 21st Century.

The exhibition is a celebration of Yolngu heritage and culture, showing works from three generations of the Marika family. A range of approximately 60 works from different sites across the Yalangbara peninsula are a stunning introduction to the way of life in this corner of Australia, and is a unique insight into the central role of art in Indigenous culture.  

The Marika family are strong advocates for Indigenous rights, especially when it comes to protecting copyright and land rights. The family are proud of their heritage and their artworks interweave Dreaming stories with current political and social issues. Their works carry on techniques that have been used for many thousands of years; however, they also embrace more modern forms, such as silkscreen prints and crayon drawings.

This exhibition is an opportunity to see an array of sacred artworks, the likes of which have remained hidden from the outside world for thousands of years under Madayin (sacred law), until now. Yalangbara: Art of the Djang'kawu is more than just a showing of art – it’s a statement by the people of the Yalangbara region that they are important, and that their heritage and culture needs to be recognised and protected. It’s an opportunity for us to understand and be involved in Yolngu culture, and to share stories of place and time that most of us have never heard before.

Margie West AM (Emeritus Curator of Aboriginal Art & Material Culture, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory), wrote an essay about the background of this exhibition. The essay Yalangbara: art of the Djang’kawu, is available as either a PDF document or full text online.

Yalangbara: Art of the Djang'kawu is a touring exhibition presented by the National Museum of Australia, developed by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in partnership with the Marika family and supported by the Northern Territory Government.

The exhibition is supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of Australian cultural material across Australia.