Daughters of Law
Rerrkirrwaŋa Munuŋgurr, Marrnyula Munuŋgurr and Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra
As the cultural revolutions of the sixties and seventies swept through mainstream Australian society there was a lesser known quiet revolution taking place in East Arnhem around the art hub of Yirrkala.
Specifically a group of men consciously loosened the restrictions on women painting sacred art that had held for millennia. This show is made up of artists who would not have painted but for that decision. In the case of Marrnyula and Rerrkirrwaŋa they are sisters. Their father Djutjadjutja Munuŋgurr was born around the time of the advent of Europeans in 1935 (d.1999). His father Woŋgu was perhaps the main actor in the contact era conflict and its resolution. His wife, Noŋgirrŋa Marawili is now world famous as a contemporary artist. She and her daughters started their artistic career assisting Djutjadjutja in rendering his sacerd muny’tji. He then encouraged them to paint in their own right. Like Djutja himself, Noŋgirrŋa and Rerrkirrwaŋa have each won major art awards since.
The same can be said of Djirrirra who is a multiple award winner herself. Her first publicly acknowledged work was in assisting her father Yaŋgarriny Wunuŋmurra (1931-2003) in the monumental bark painting which won him First Prize in the 1997 National ATSI Art Award.
Most of these knowledge and authority transfers were a conscious pro-active liberated decision by these fathers. An attempt to buttress the Law and empower their children as its defenders. What happened after that we can see in this exhibition where the women took that authority and explored their creative potential to its fullest.
- Will Stubbs, Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, 2020