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Owen Yalandja

Mimi Spirit - c.2008

natural earth pigments on carved wood
Height:220 x 0.0 cm
Price Realised: $6,100.00

MP #390


Maningrida Art and Culture, NT
Private Collection, Vic

Images of Mimi spirits on bark were among the first Aboriginal paintings to be collected in the early twentieth century. Baldwin Spencer made extensive collections of such bark barks, most of which are now in the Museum of Victoria collection. Although they are not considered to be ancestral beings, Mimi are credited with having taught the peoples of western Arnhem Land the arts of living; of hunting and collecting, of butchering game and cooking, dancing and singing, and even the practices of weaving and painting. In bark paintings, Mimi are often shown in scenes of ceremony or hunting and with ancestral beings.


In the 1960s, Crusoe Guningbal (Alt. Kuningbal) introduced sculpted figures of Mimi for use in ceremonies for what is believed to have been the first time. This innovation on traditional practice was separate from the dictates of the art market or the public domain. The first three-dimensional Mimi figures were modest in scale, but Guningbal eventually increased the size of the sculptures to a human scale and beyond. Following his death in 1984, he passed on the exclusive right to depict Mimi's in three-dimensional form to his nephew Crusoe Gurdal (Alt. Kurddal).

Owen Yalandja, like his brother Crusoe Kurddal, carries on his father's artistic legacy in wood carving. He lives at the camp established by his father adjacent to a billabong that is a Yirridja moiety sacred site. Mimi Spirits by Yalandja are relatively rare. He is now far better known for having developed the Mimi form into sculptures of the Yawkyawk sisters. In the early 1990s, he experimented with the dot patterns his father taught him, and today paints with a much finer aesthetic on the carved wood of the kurrajong tree which has good strength across the grain, allowing him to incorporate three-dimensional carved elements without splitting the wood.