From October 24 – November 6, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of U.Va. will host renowned artist and community leader Djambawa Marawili AM (Yolngu), a painter, sculptor and printmaker from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, Australia. His residency, sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will provide a variety of exciting, interdisciplinary opportunities to meet the artist and learn about Yolngu art, law and culture.
Djambawa Marawili AM is an acclaimed artist and principal ceremonial leader of the Madarrpa clan of the Yolngu people. In 1996 he won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for the Best Bark Painting for a painting that is in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection. A leader in the interface between non-Aboriginal and Yolngu people, Marawili led a successful campaign resulting in federal recognition of Yolngu sea rights in 2008. He was chosen by the Australian Prime Minister as a member of the National Indigenous Advisory Panel in 2013 and was named a Member of the Order of Australia.
Marawili uses art as a tool in his practice as a cultural leader, and many of his artworks express the deep connection of Yolngu people to water and sea. He says “I want people to understand it’s not just a colorful or beautiful show of paintings but it has a meaning and is a document of my country.”
Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection Margo Smith said, “Djambawa’s authority, as a Yolngu leader, adds tremendous significance to his artwork, which is both based on traditional knowledge and innovative in its design. Alongside other artists of his generation, Djambawa has brought bark painting to the contemporary art world and raised the international profile of Indigenous Australian art.”
Marawili’s residency provides a unique opportunity for U.Va. students and the Charlottesville community to learn from an Indigenous Australian leader and artist. He will briefly discuss his work at a reception on Thursday, October 29th from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, using the works on view in his exhibition at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection titled where the water rests, where it moves. Djambawa will sing the traditional song that accompanies the paintings in the exhibition, and two of his hollow log sculptures will also be unveiled as additions to the exhibition.
On Saturday, October 31 Marawili will give a full tour of the exhibition of his works at 10:30 am. He will also give a public artist talk in the Environmental Sciences department at U.Va. on Tuesday, November 3 at 4:00 pm, in which he will discuss his art practice and its relationship to environmental knowledge and Indigenous rights to land and sea.
Aside from these public opportunities, students at the Ocean Law Center of U.Va. will have lunch with Marawili to discuss the landmark sea rights claim in Arnhem Land. Students in U.Va.’s Studio Art Department will also have the opportunity to learn from him as a printmaker.
Djambawa Marawili will be travelling to Virginia with Kade McDonald, one of two art center managers at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, an Indigenous community-controlled art center in northeast Arnhem Land. On Friday, October 30 at 5:00 pm in Brooks Hall Commons, Kluge-Ruhe will screen two short films made by budding Indigenous filmmakers in Yirrkala under the auspices of the Mulka Project, which uses film to sustain and protect Yolngu cultural knowledge in northeast Arnhem Land under the leadership of community members. Kade and Djambawa will be present to discuss the context and importance of the films and answer questions.
The two main shorts will be Galka, a film about the Yolngu sorcerer spirit, and Homeland Hustle, a film about dancing and hip hop in remote Arnhem Land.
Djambawa Marawili AM is the fourth resident artist at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection under its prestigious grant from Australia Council for the Arts. The exhibition and residency has been presented in partnership with the following sponsors: Embassy of Australia, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Maria T. Kluge, U.Va. McIntire Department of Art and U.Va. Oceans Law Center.