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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Title

Yawkyawk


Artist

Owen Yalandja

Australia

1960 -

Language group

Kuninjku, Arnhem region


About

Owen Yalandja's 'Yawkyawk' figure is a particularly beautiful example of this genre from central Arnhem Land. The slight curvature of the wood accentuates the elongated body of the figure while the fine detail of the painted surface is intended to represent the scales of the 'mermaid's' tail.

For many years Owen Yalandja's father Crusoe Kuningbal was the exclusive carver of mimih figures. They derive from much earlier sculptures made from paperbark and bush string. Like his father's Mimi figures, Yalandja's 'Yawkyawk' figure is an adaptation or innovation of a traditional cultural theme and Yalandja has elaborated the tradition once again by greatly increasing the size of the figure.

In Kunwinjku belief the creator of the Liverpool River region in Yingarna, the Rainbow Serpent. Yingarna's first born was a son, Ngalyod, also a Rainbow Serpent. Yingarna's second born was a daughter, Ngalkunburruyaymi (also know as Yawkyawk), a freshwater spirit resembling a mermaid in the western tradition although significant distinctions exist. Yawkyawks emerge from the water from time to time and sun themselves on rocks drying their long hair. Yawkyawks can travel across land causing people to be wary in the vicinity of their sites. They are also strongly associated with fertility.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002


Details


Other Title

Yawk Yawk


Date

2001


Media category

Sculpture


Materials used

natural pigments on wood


Dimensions

285.0 cm height


Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Credit

Purchased 2002


Location

Not on display


Accession number

96.2002


Artist information

Owen Yalandja

Artist profile

Works in the collection

3


Place

Where the work was made
Maningrida

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history


Referenced in 2 publications

Bibliography


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2002, 'Year in review', pg. 8-25, Sydney, 2002, 9.

Hetti Perkins, Crossing country: the alchemy of western Arnhem Land art, Sydney, 2004, 202 (colour illus.), 231.