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John Mawurndjul

Ngarrbek - The Echidna - 1993

natural earth pigment on Eucalyptus bark
28.0 x 82.5 cm
Price Realised: $5,612.00

MP #375


Maningrida Arts and Culture, NT Cat No. MAW215
Private Collection, NSW


accompanied by a Maningrida Arts and Culture certificate of authenticity

John Mawurndjurl began painting the mythology of the environment at Milmilngkan under Jimmy Njiminjuma’s tutelage in the late 1970s. Over the decade spanning the 1980s, he painted small barks of Ngalyod (the Rainbow Serpent) keeper of the nearby billabong, as well as various depictions of the local natural species, such as fish, bandicoots, possum, and echidna with precise attention to anatomical detail. The figurative elements of his work served as a compositional vehicle to support a complex array of cross hatching, or ‘rarrk’, derived from the body painting designs of the Mardayin ceremony.


Mawurndjurl’s work at this time reflected his place as an heir to the long Kuninjku painting tradition, exemplified by his teachers and elders David Yirawala, Peter Marralwanga and Mick Kubarkku.

By 1988 Mawurndjurl abandoned figurative iconography all but completely, creating an abstracted vision of country. This development was a logical extension of his experimentation with rarrk designs, and more intimately related to the bark painting tradition of the Yolngu people of Eastern Arnhem Land. 

This small example from the early 1990s depicts an Echidna otherwise known as a Spiny Ant Eater (Tachyglossus aculeatus). Echidna's are sought after as a food source and can often be found in abandoned termite mounds. They are classified in Arnhem Land as being of the Dhuwa moiety and are therefore affiliated with the artist, who is of the same moiety.