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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra


1968 -

Language group

Dhalwangu, Arnhem region


Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra is a Dhalwaŋu artist from Gurrumurru, near Yirrkala. She comes from a renowned artistic family. Her father, Yaŋarriny Wunuŋmarra and brother Nawurapu Wunuŋmarra, are known for their epic bark paintings depicting major Dhalwaŋu narratives and have taught Wunuŋmurra the exceptional skills that distinguish her artworks.

'Yukuwa 2011' by Wunuŋmurra marks a dramatic shift in her practice and more widely, in bark painting traditions. Previously Wunuŋmurra’s works have epitomised the highly geometric style for which Yirrkala is recognised, with intricate fields of rarrk (cross hatching) forming precise geometric patterns. In such works the shimmering effect of the rarrk reflects the power of the site or story represented. However, in 'Yukuwa', Wunuŋmurra has avoided precise geometry and eliminated the use of rarrk, as well as reducing her palette.

This paring back of traditional forms of representation and ways of painting is highly appropriate as Wunuŋmurra is painting Yukuwa, a yam, which is also one of her names, making the work a form of self portrait. Yukuwa is associated with a renewal ceremony shared by all Yirritja moiety clans and involves the exchange of sacred objects, songs and dance. Traditionally the invitation to this ceremony takes the form of a yam with strings ending in feathered flowers attached to it, reflecting the kinship lines that bind people and are celebrated in the Yukuwa ceremony.

In 'Yukuwa 2011', Wunuŋmurra has elegantly painted the intertwining tendrils of the yam, adorned with feathered flowers. The subtle variations in the details of these flowers are reminiscent of traditional infilling techniques and give the work a lace-like appearance. The inherent simplicity in this work belies Wunuŋmurra’s skill in transforming her cultural inheritance and offering innovative forms of representation.




Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


168.0 x 40.0 cm


Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2012


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Djirrirra Wunuŋmurra

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Djirrirra Wunungmurra I am Yukuwa, 'Djirrirra Wunungmurra I am Yukuwa', pg. 1-30, Melbourne, 2012, 9 (colour illus.). viewed 24 April 2012,