Wukun Wanambi

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Wukun Wanambi
Wukun Wanambi at Shady Beach, Yirrkala, Northern Territory, Australia.jpg
Wanambi in 2019
Born(1962-05-18)18 May 1962
Gurka'wuy, East Arnhem NT, Australia
Died4 May 2022(2022-05-04) (aged 59)
Known forArtist
  • Mithili Wanambi (father)

Wukun Wanambi (18 May 1962 – 4 May 2022)[1] was an Australian Yolngu painter, filmmaker and curator of the Marrakulu clan of northeastern Arnhem Land.


Wanambi was born in Gurka'wuy as the oldest son in his family. His father, Mithili Wanambi, was an esteemed clan leader and renowned painter. Although he was born to a family of artists, he wished to be a politician growing up.[2]

When Mithili died in 1981, sacred clan designs could no longer be painted because no one had the authority to paint them anymore. It was not until 1997 that Djunggayi (caretakers and preservers of clan knowledge) taught Wanambi the designs. Wanambi then began painting and created for the Saltwater Country exhibition, re-introducing motifs that had not been painted since his father's death.[3] From this point on, he became a highly renowned artist, dedicated to honoring his father and ancestry through his art.


While Wanambi was an artist who used many different media, he is best known as a painter and sculptor who works with natural pigments on bark and traditional memorial poles, or larrakitj.[4] He also made prints at the Bulka-Larrrŋgay Mulka Centre.[5] He was the Cultural Director of the Mulka Project, the media centre in Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka.[6] Through this position, he advised individuals on what they have the clan authority to depict in film. However, he was also a video artist himself, working to bridge generations by creating archival art that reconstructed ceremonial documentary archives.[7] Rather than solidifying binaries of past and present, traditional and modern, Wanambi aimed to show the interconnectedness of time as well as the global network through the recording of ceremonial practices.[7]

Using both his artwork and his involvement with the Mulka Project, Wanambi advocated for the agency and involvement of Aboriginal peoples to cultivate a true understanding of Aboriginal cultures.[8]

Curatorial practice

In 2017, Wanambi traveled to the United States to join the curatorial team for the exhibition Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Australian Art from Yirrkala.[9] This was Wanambi's first time working as a curator.[10] In 2018 he served as curatorial consultant on the exhibition MIwatj at the La Trobe Art Institute.[11] Wanambi believed in incorporating Aboriginal peoples at all levels of art exhibition, and his curatorial work with the Maḏayin exhibition project reflected his desire for Yolngu culture to be depicted the Yolngu way.


1998 – NATSIAA Awards – Best Bark

2003 – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards – Highly Commended (3D Work)

2007 – Togart Contemporary Art Award (NT) - Winner of Peoples Choice

2010 – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards – Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award Telstra

2018 – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards – Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award Telstra


Significant exhibitions

  • 1998 NATSIAA
  • 1998–2001 Saltwater
  • 2001 18th NATSIAA, MAGNT
  • 2001 New from Old Annandale Galleries, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2002 19th NATSIAA, Museum and Art Galleries of the NT, Darwin
  • 2003 Brighton International Art Festival UK
  • 2003 Larrakitj Rebecca Hossack Gallery
  • 2003 20th NATSIAA MAGNT
  • 2004 Wukun Wanambi (first solo show) Raft 2 Darwin
  • 2005 Wukun Wanambi Niagara Galleries Melbourne
  • 2005 Yakumirri, Raft Artspace (exhibition purchased by the Holmes a Court collection)
  • 2005 22nd NATSIAA MAGNT
  • 2005 ‘Yåkumirri’, Holmes a Court Gallery, Perth Artbank: Celebrating 25 Years of Australian Art touring exhibition 4.06-10.07 9 regional galleries from Cairns to Bathurst
  • 2006 TOGA NT Contemporary Art Award Parliament House Darwin
  • 2006 Telstra NATSIAA
  • 2006 ‘Walking together to aid Aboriginal Health.’ Shalom College UNSW
  • 2006 ‘Bulayi- Small Gems’ Suzanne O’Connell Gallery Brisbane 2006 ‘Arnhem Land Ochres’ Mina Mina Art Gallery Brunswick Heads.
  • 2007 Toga NT Contemporary Art Award – winner Peoples Choice
  • 2007 Galuku Gallery, Festival of Darwin, NT
  • 2007 Bukulungthunmi - Coming Together, One Place, Raft Artspace, Darwin, NT
  • 2008 Outside Inside - bark and hollow logs from Yirrkala, Bett Gallery Hobart, Tas
  • 2008 Yarpany - Honey - bark paintings and Hollow Logs of the Marrakulu Clan, Framed Gallery, Darwin, NT
  • 2008 Gapan Gallery - Bendt Prints, Garma Festival Site, Gulkula, NT.
  • 2008 Galuku Gallery (Nomad Art Productions) - Berndt Prints, Darwin Festival, Botanical Gardens, Darwin, NT
  • 2008, Wukun Wanambi - Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Vic
  • 2009 Larrakitj - Kerry Stokes Collection, Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth, WA
  • 2009 After Berndt - Etchings from the Drawings, Indigenart Subiaco, WA
  • 2009–2010 Almanac: Australian Art from the Gift of Ann Lewis AO, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2010 The White Show, Short Street Gallery, Broome, WA
  • 2010 17th Biennale of Sydney, ‘Larrakitj ‘- the Kerry Stokes Collection, Museum on Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2010 ‘Returning to Djakapurra’ - A Collection of Poles and Barks from Yirrkala, Redot Gallery, Singapore. 2010, 27th NATSIAA, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT - Winner 3D category
  • 2011 One Clan Three Hands, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne Vic 2011 Telstra NATSIAA, MAGNT Darwin NT
  • 2011 Gapan Gallery GARMA Festival, Northeast Arnhem Land, NT
  • 2012 Three, Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin NT 2013 Finalist West Australian Indigenous art Awards
  • 2013 Prized Nomad Art Darwin
  • 2013 ‘Found’ Annandale Galleries Sydney NSW 2013 Gapan Gallery GARMA Festival, Northeast Arnhem Land, NT
  • 2014 Gapan Gallery GARMA Festival, Northeast Arnhem Land, NT
  • 2015 NATSIAA, MAGNT 2015 Enduring Civilisations, British Museum, UK
  • 2015 Gapan Gallery GARMA Festival, Northeast Arnhem Land, NT
  • 2015 Revolution, Nomad Art, Darwin NT
  • 2015 Yirrkala Mob, Bangarra Boards. RAFT Art Space, Alice Springs NT
  • 2015 Unsettled, National Museum of Australia, ACT[12]
  • 2019–2020 The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Memorial Poles, Nevada Museum of Art and touring.[13]


  1. ^ Latimore, Jack (4 May 2022). "Prominent Yolngu clan leader and artist Mr Wanambi dies". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  2. ^ Wanambi, Wukun. "A vision beneath the surface". Retrieved 2021-5-4.
  3. ^ Ellersdorfer, Johanna Marie; Sloggett, Robyn; Wanambi, Wukun (25 February 2012). "Bark paintings and orchids: a technical discussion of bark paintings from Arnhem Land". AICCM Bulletin. 33 (1): 30–40. doi:10.1179/bac.2012.33.1.005. ISSN 1034-4233. S2CID 59953461.
  4. ^ SCULTHORPE, GAYE (2017). "Same Objects, Different Stories: Exhibiting 'Indigenous Australia'". Journal of Museum Ethnography (30): 79–103. ISSN 0954-7169. JSTOR 44841228.
  5. ^ Curtin, Travis. "Sun Cycles and River Flows" (PDF). La Trobe Art Institute. Retrieved 18 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Conor, Liz; Lydon, Jane (1 June 2011). "Double take: reappraising the colonial archive". Journal of Australian Studies. 35 (2): 137–143. doi:10.1080/14443058.2011.562229. ISSN 1444-3058. S2CID 145133835.
  7. ^ a b Lane, Robert Lazarus (2015). “WUKUN WANAMBI’S NHINA, NHÄMA, GA NGÄMA (SIT, LOOK, AND, LISTEN)” in Indigenous Archives: The Making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art, edited by Darren Jorgenson and Ian McLean. UWA Publishing. pp. 227-249.
  8. ^ Deveson, Philippa (1 June 2011). "The agency of the subject: Yolngu involvement in the Yirrkala Film Project". Journal of Australian Studies. 35 (2): 153–164. doi:10.1080/14443058.2011.553839. ISSN 1444-3058. S2CID 143665922.
  9. ^ "Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Australian Bark Painting from Yirrkala". Kluge-Ruhe. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  10. ^ Cumpston and Slade, Nici and Lisa (2019). Tarnanthi. Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia. pp. 24–47.
  11. ^ University, La Trobe. "Publications". www.latrobe.edu.au. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  12. ^ a b Wukun Wanambi Curriculum Vitae.” Buku-Larrnggay Mulka: 2008.
  13. ^ "The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Memorial Poles from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection". Nevada Museum of Art. Retrieved 7 May 2021.

Further reading

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