Ina’ngeen – Sculpture from Aurukun2nd May - 02nd June 2009
Opening Day - Saturday 2nd May -
2pm to 5pm
Most people in Australia have heard of the Wik people of Cape York due to their historic native title claim. Yet amongst a small number of discriminating collectors the Wik and Kugu people are best known for the unique sculptural depictions of totemic beings and creation ancestors belonging to the Sara, Winchanam, Apalech, Putch and Wanam clans.
Following its establishment on the Archer River in 1904 the Aurukun mission gradually isolated the Wik and Kugu people from others living along the coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The men were encouraged to work in the mission sawmill where they learnt carpentry techniques and this, along with their isolation, contributed to the development of a localized sculptural tradition built from its origins in the decorated clay figures that had first been noted by anthropologists as early as 1894.
Skilled at sawing, morticing, joining and nailing, these artists developed techniques that enabled them to inlay limbs, teeth, breasts, fins, eyeballs and other appendages in order to produce the visually arresting, highly figurative sculptures that were collected in earnest by individual collectors from 1927 onward. The most important of these works eventually found their way in to the South Australian Museum, the Museum of Victoria, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Queensland and the Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra having been acquired in 1927, 1933, 1949 and later throughout the 1950’s, and 1962.
As this artistic tradition developed in to its current contemporary expression the sculptors of Aurukun became more widely recognized, most especially following important ceremonial reenactments held in 1958 and 1962. However, surprisingly, it was not until 2003 that the first commercial exhibition of wooden and metal sculpture from Aurukun was held. This followed that were exhibited at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on the sunshine coast in 2002.
Amongst the Wik & Kugu clans each has its own unique living history and interlinked connections. Due to their isolation and the unique ceremonial activities that they continue to practice, their art has developed a readily identifiable and definitive style based on the various clan patterns and designs adopted by the participants during ceremony.
Their Art Centre, plays an importantly role in retaining traditional techniques and cultural practices while providing the opportunity for local artists to achieve economic benefit through the sale of their work.
For this, their first exhibition at Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, three artists and the art coordinator will attend the Sydney opening.