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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Mimih spirit



Crusoe Kurddal


1961 -

Language group

Kuninjku, Arnhem region


'Mimih spirit' 2002 is an extremely accomplished example of the mimih sculptures for which Crusoe Kurddal is renowned.

The double figure arrangement of 'Mimih spirit' 2002 is highly unusual and emphasised by the complementary use of red and black ochred backgrounds for each figure. The meticulous application of body paint and care taken in the carving of this work, contribute to the sculpture's highly resolved quality. Kurddal's use of contrasting base colours is possibly attributable to the growing artistic presence of his brother Owen Yalandja, who carves the elegant yawkyawk figures and often employs a black background. The carving of mimih and yawkyawk figures has become one of the primary dry season occupations of the Maningrida art centre artists. However, Kurddal remains the most distinguished of the 'mimih artists' through his depictions of these enigmatic and much revered beings in performance and carving.

The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art & Culture states: 'Crusoe Kurddal is the second son of the artist Crusoe Kuningbal (c. 1922-1986). Kurddal has become best known for continuing both the sculptural and musical traditions of his father. Kurddal is the only one of Kuningbal's three sons who performs his father's solo mimih style dance routine. Along with his elder brother Owen Yalandja, Kurddal also continues to perform the singing of the individually-owned kunborrk songs from his father's repertoire. In the early 1990s Kurddal started to produce very large versions of the sculpted mimih spirit figures which were made famous by his father. Large sculptures of other clan totems such as yawkyawk (mermaids) are also produced by Kurddal and Yalandja.'

Kurddal travels regularly between Maningrida, Oenpelli, Darwin and Croker Island and has performed as a dancer throughout Australia as well as on tours of North America and Europe.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003




Media category


Materials used

natural pigments with PVA fixative on kurrajong wood (Brachychiton diversifolius)


263.0 x 14.5 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Crusoe Kurddal

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Hetti Perkins, Art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art, 'Home + away', pg. 1-86, Carlton, 2010, 44 (colour illus.), 278.

Hetti Perkins, Crossing country: the alchemy of western Arnhem Land art, Sydney, 2004, 197 (colour illus.), 224.

Jill Sykes, Look, 'art + soul: bringing remote cultural riches to a gallery or screen near you', pg. 28-31, Sydney, Sep 2010, 31 (colour illus.).

Luke Taylor, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Painting Djang: Art and inspiration in Western Arnhem Land’, pg. 85-91, Sydney, 2007, 90 (colour illus.).