Murruwaygu is a Wiradjuri word referring to the unique south-east designs that are carved onto trees and weapons. ‘Murru’ means ‘nose’ and is often used to denote something ahead of you, while ‘murruway’ means ‘track’ or ‘path of footprints’. The compound word ‘murruwaygu’ entwines these meanings, imparting a sense of following the tracks of those who have gone before us.
The exhibition Murrwaygu: following in the footsteps of the ancestors (Art Gallery of NSW, 28 November 2015 – 21 February 2016) considers the continuing use of the line by four generations of male artists from south-east Australia, from pre-contact times to the present day. A distinctive use of the line is constant in figurative and abstract imagery, in varying mediums, and through changing social, political and cultural climates, representing the unbroken lineage of Koori knowledge and culture.
By bringing together four generations of Koori artists, Murruwaygu begins to tell the story of south-east Australia, a region rich in cultural traditions. Each generation is heir to the cultural leaders before them, and collectively we are following in the footsteps of our ancestors – murruwaygu.