We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Title

The Morning Star ceremony

circa 1960

Artist

Mäw Munuŋgurr

Australia

circa 1910 - 1976

Language group

Djapu, Arnhem region

No image
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    Date
    circa 1960
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on bark
    Dimensions
    120.6 x 64.2 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Credit
    Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960
    Location
    Not on display
    Accession number
    IA37.1960
    Copyright
    © Estate of Mäw Mununggurr
    Artist information
    Mäw Munuŋgurr

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection

    2

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  • About

    Mäw' Munuŋgurr's life spanned a crucial era in the history of the Yolŋu people of north-east Arnhem Land. He was one of the older sons of Woŋgu Munuŋgurr (c.1880-1959), the famous Djapu clan leader who led resistance to incursions on his land before the establishment of the Methodist Yirrkala Mission in 1935. Mäw' was imprisoned for a year in Fannie Bay Gaol in Darwin following a skirmish at Caledon Bay in 1933 in which the crew of a Japanese pearling boat were killed. During World War II he was a member of Donald Thomson's Aboriginal observer force, patrolling the shores of Arnhem Land looking for any signs of Japanese invasion. Woŋgu, in collaboration with his older sons including Mäw', painted for Thomson an enormous bark painting of the main settlement site, 'Wandawuy: Wet season painting', 1942, now in the Melbourne Museum.

    After the war, Mäw' settled at Yirrkala, making frequent visits to his Country around Caledon Bay and Trial Bay. He was a prolific painter, producing works for anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1946 and 1947, and for Charles Mountford's American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948. Mäw' produced bark paintings throughout his life, and during his final years he worked intensely to help his clan establish Wandawuy. Painting for sale was only a minor part of his artistic output. Mäw' was a great singer, dancer and ceremonial leader, and was frequently called upon to produce paintings of his own clan and his mother's clan in ceremonies. He was a leader of the spectacular 'Dhanbul (Morning Star)' exchange ceremony which he depicts in 'Banumbirr (Morning Star ceremony)', 1948, and 'The Morning Star ceremony', c.1960 – and took it to Groote Eylandt and Numbulwarr.

    Mäw's style of painting is often reserved. Many of his early paintings comprise multiple figurative representations of fish and animals, with broad areas of crosshatching in a single colour. These paintings were in continuity with some of the earlier Yolngu barks representing daily scenes that were among the first produced for the Rev. Wilbur Chaseling, who established Yirrkala Mission. Towards the end of his life, Mäw's paintings emphasised the story of Mana, the Djapu shark, and the shark itself often provided the dominant image. He also continued to create the paintings of his mother's clan, the Munyuku, and related Yirritja moiety clans.

    Howard Morphy in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

    © Art Gallery of New South Wales

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Yirrkala

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

    • Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Steven Miller, Tony Tuckson, James Scougall, Mollie Gowing, Harry Messel, Craig Brush, Ronald Fine, Alison Fine, Gordon Davies, Rosalind Davies, Christopher Hodges, Helen Eager, Rosemary Gow, Sandra Phillips, Daphne Wallace and Ken Watson, Gamarada, Sydney, 1996, 34 (colour illus.).

    • Howard Morphy, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Mäw' Mununggurr', pg. 96, Sydney, 2004, 96 (colour illus., left image).

    • Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 88, 89 (colour illus), 137, 139. plate no. 40

Other works by Mäw Munuŋgurr

See more works