2023 Ŋäṉḏi’manydji - From the mother

10 May - 10 June 2023

Presented by Aboriginal & Pacific Art in association with Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, NT.


"Ŋäṉḏi’manydji is a phrase from the Yolŋu language. Noŋgirrŋa and her daughters Marrnyula and Rerrkirrwaŋa are all Yolŋu people. The Yolŋu nation are the First Nations owners of North East Arnhem land who have never ceded their sovereignty and are recognised under European law as the owners of that huge part of Australia.

They also have in common that they are each winners of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Best Bark Painting prize. Marrnyula in 2020, Noŋgirrŋa in 2019 and 2015, Rerrkirrwaŋa in 2009. Djutjadjutja  Munuŋgurr the father of the two girls and Noŋgirrŋa’s husband of 47 years until his death in 1999 also won the same prize in 1997.

Djutjadjutja had six children with Noŋgirrŋa and four with her sister Burrtjalk in the normal Yolŋu family structure of an extended family.

The word ŋäṉḏi’manydji is a compound word. It is a way of describing a group of people by reference to their relationship to one of that group. In this case it is telling us that the exhibition is by a group of people connected through their relationship to the mother- Noŋgirrŋa.

If you saw them walking down the road it would be perfectly normal to yell out ‘Way ŋäṉḏi’manydji whanama?” trans. “Hey mother-mob where are you heading?”

In this case they are heading to a pretty special exhibition. One which shows three people excelling to a very high level in visual art. Three people whose lives and art practice could not be more closely connected. But three artists whose paintings do not look like they came from the same source.

The looseness of Noŋgirrŋa’s art could not contrast more vividly with the precision of Rerrkirrwaŋa. Marrnyula’s paintings of paintings of fibrework are almost post modern in comparison to the strict black letter Law of Rerrkirr’s classical sacred design.

And yet they have literally been painting side by side on a daily basis for at least thirty years. Sartre’s comment that ‘hell is other people’[1] does not come close to describing the intensity of human relations in a totally non-materialistic communal society that does not recognise individual members as separate from the organism of the clan. The gulf between what Anglo-Australians understand as the acceptable boundaries between people, and the Yolŋu take on that issue, cannot even be approached.

You are your brother’s keeper- and your mother’s mother’s cousin’s brother’s keeper -and everyone in between. In that context, the four eldest sons of Noŋgirrŋa who included a Police Aide and a Legal Aid Field Officer are all now deceased but the ŋäṉḏi’manydji remain intricately intertwined.

From this cauldron of human experience here we have the fruits of three lives lived in art."

- Will Stubbs, 2023

[1] From the play, ‘No Exit’, Jean-Paul Sartre 1944.