Ms N. Yunupiŋu<br/>
<em>Bäru ga Ganytjurr</em> 2007 <!-- (recto) --><br />

colour screenprint on buff paper<br />
48.0 x 64.9 cm irreg. (image) 56.4 x 76.0 cm (sheet)<br />
ed. 23/28<br />
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne<br />
Purchased with funds donated by Linda Herd, 2021<br />
2021.670<br />
© Estate of Ms N. Yunupiŋu, courtesy of Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala
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Ms N. Yunupiŋu
Bäru ga Ganytjurr 2007
Media Release • 6 Dec 21

The Gecko and the Mermaid: Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu and Her Sister

22 November 2021: NGV kids presents an all-ages exhibition, The Gecko and the Mermaid: Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu and Her Sister, which celebrates the vibrant culture and community of the Yolŋu people through the work of two pioneering artists and sisters. The exhibition will introduce young audiences to Yolŋu art, culture and language and provide an opportunity for children and families to learn more about and engage with the rich culture from North-East Arnhem Land – known to be one of the oldest living cultures on this planet.

Known for their vibrant artworks and arresting depictions of their personal stories, Ms N Yunupiŋu and her sister Eunice Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu are each award-winning artists in their own right. In the exhibition, Ms N Yunupiŋu’s work focuses on the land, depicting creatures including geckos, turtles, and lizards, as well as incorporating intricate and abstract design elements. Djerrkŋu focuses on the sea in her vivid depictions of mermaids, representing the story of her conception as a spiritual mermaid, all rendered using a combination of natural earth pigments and reclaimed toner ink from discarded printer cartridges.

A highlight of the exhibition will be a floor-to-ceiling installation of seventeen of Ms N Yunupiŋu’s colourful screenprints, linocuts and lithographs representing geckos, turtles and lizards, which have informed the interactive spaces in the exhibition. Inspired by these works on display, children can explore and along the way learn the names of animals and how to count to five in Yolŋu Matha, the language of Yolŋu people, in a creative counting game. A specially produced film will also allow children to learn how bark is collected and prepared for painting, and be inspired to create their own digital bark paintings, choosing from a colour palette of Ms N Yunupiŋu’s natural ochres, or Djerrkŋu’s vivid and paints repurposed from disposable printer ink cartridges.

Inspired by Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu’s I am a mermaid 2020, a story in which her spirit appears to her father as a mermaid and signals her conception, children learn about birth and creation, and can draw a portrait of themselves within a three-dimensional scene on a take home pop-up card. For younger audiences, a circular lounge filled with cushions shaped as maypal (shellfish) will invite children to play and sort the shellfish into a few of the many different species found on Country.

The exhibition has been developed alongside Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, an arts centre located in Yirrkala, approximately 700 km east of Darwin. The exhibition has also been developed in collaboration with award-winning Yolŋu artist, author and filmmaker Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs, who is also the granddaughter of these Yunupiŋu sisters. Siena’s voice can be heard throughout animations inside the exhibition, helping children to pronounce words in the Yolŋu Matha language. Siena has also collaborated with NGV on the new NGV kids’ publication 123 Turtles and Geckos, which takes young readers on a counting adventure across Country with Siena and her grandmother, Ms N Yunupiŋu.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘We are delighted to share this experience for children and understand the importance of connecting young Melbourne visitors with one of the many rich First Nations cultures in Australia. We hope the work of the two sisters and artists will inspire the next generation of young artists, and foster a deep and continuing connect with First Nations culture.’

The Gecko and the Mermaid: Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu and Her Sister runs alongside Bark Ladies: Eleven Artists from Yirrkala which is a major ground floor exhibition at presenting the work of eleven artists from Buku- Larrŋgay Mulka Centre. The exhibition celebrates the NGV’s extraordinary collection of bark paintings and larrakitj (painted hollow poles).

The Gecko and the Mermaid: Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu and Her Sister is presented by the National Gallery of Victoria in collaboration with Buku Larrngay Mulka Centre and is on display from 17 December 2021 to 25 April 2022 at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Entry is free. For further information, please visit the NGV website: NGV.MELBOURNE.

This exhibition has been developed by the NGV and Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre. The Gecko and the Mermaid: Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu and Her Sister is generously supported by the Packer Family and Crown Resorts Foundations, City of Melbourne and Spencer Ko.

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