Installation view of Wanapati Yunupiŋu's <em>Gurtha (Road closed due to ceremony)</em> 2021, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Chris Thomas AM and Cheryl Thomas, 2022​. Photo: Lillie Thompson

Wanapati Yunupiŋu

Photo: courtesy of the artist

Wanapati Yunupiŋu
Gumatj born 1989

Level 2
NGV International
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Wanapati Yunupiŋu’s unique artistic style showcases his exceptional creativity and deep spiritual connection with his Community and homeland. He skilfully carves his sacred Gumatj clan patterns and stories onto forgotten street signs, as in the case of Gurtha (Road closed for ceremony), or discarded metal sheets. These intricate diamond designs encode a visual narrative from the ‘beforetimes’, recounting a significant ceremony at Ŋalarrwuy in Gumatj Country, where the leaders of Yirritja moiety clans first utilised fire. The diamond design has since then been associated with these events, and Yolŋu people will forever embody fire – its vibrant red flames, white smoke and ash, black charcoal and yellow dust, as well as the black skin, yellow fat, white bone and red blood of the Gumatj people.

Wanapati Yunupiŋu is a Yolŋu artist who lives in the remote coastal Gumatj homeland of Biranybirany, North-East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. The residents live a life dictated by the ceremonial and seasonal calendar further punctuated by regular six-hour round trips to the town of Nhulunbuy for supplies. Wanapati is the son of deceased artist and spiritual leader Miniyawany Yunupiŋu, from whom he inherited rich ceremonial instruction and was trained in the art, law and cultural practice of his and related clans while living between the homeland communities of Waṉḏawuy (the land of his mother’s clan) and Biranybirany. Wanapati has been strongly influenced by peer and fellow artist Gunybi Ganambarr, who radically embraced the use of found objects in his practice.

Purchased with funds donated by Chris Thomas AM and Cheryl Thomas, 2022