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Willie Nabulwad
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Artwork Description

The heart-shaped leaves of karrbarda, the long yam (Dioscorea transversa) are similar to mankinjdjek, the “cheeky yam” (Dioscorea bulbifera). The cheeky yam is poisonous unless properly prepared. But the old people know how to tell the leaves apart. Women used to dig up long yams with kunbalkbu (digging sticks), but now they usually use kubba (“crow bars”, sticks fashioned from bits of metal). They go into the forest, to the places they know the yams will be, dig them up and cook them in the ashes of the fire. We still eat them, like we always used to. But the young girls today often don't know how to recognise the leaves of the long yam, only the old women.
Karrbarda is also the subject of a well known song cycle, still performed in Gunbalanya today.
Kunwinjku art is part of the oldest continuous art tradition in the world. Ancestors of today’s artists have been painting the rock walls of West Arnhem Land for tens of thousands of years. The traditional palette of white, red, yellow and black comes from the ochre that naturally occurs in the region, although contemporary artists sometimes choose to paint in acrylics as well. Kunwinjku artists famously paint using either the traditional rarrk hatching technique, or the more contemporary and complex cross hatching technique which has been adapted from ceremonial painting. These lines are painted using a manyilk, which is a piece of sedge grass shaved down until only a few fibres remain.

Artists at Injalak Art Centre have been painting on Arches 640gsm handmade watercolour paper since it was introduced as a medium by American art collecter John W. Kluge in 1990 when he commissioned a suite of paintings for the Kluge-Ruhe Collection at the University of Virginia, USA. It is archival quality and has an organic texture that mimics the natural surface of bark, making it an excellent alternative in West Arnhem Land where trees suitable for bark harvesting are much sparser than other areas of the Top End of Australia.

This painting needs to be framed. It’s also being sent direct from the artist at a remote art centre, Injalak Arts, in the top end. Please note there is only one mail plane a week that takes the artwork to Gunbalanya. The tracking information is then received a week later when the mail plane returns so often the paintings are delivered before we receive the tracking information. Please expect a slightly longer wait for this very special artwork to arrive.


Acrylic on Arches paper

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Ready to hang

This artwork is ready to hang.

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#yam, #bush tucker, #west arnhem, #plants, #botany, #injalak
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