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Alec Mingelmanganu

Wandijina - c.1976

natural earth pigments on bark with cane and bush string frame
130.0 x 65 cm
Price Realised: $96,000.00

MP #491


YWCA shop in Derby, WA 1976
Private Collection, WA
Thence by descent

Alec Mingelmanganu lived at the former Benedictine Mission at Kalumbaru and became one of a select group that began painting there around 1975. His images of Wandjina with pointed shoulders mimicked the depictions of Wandjina that he saw on a trip to Lawley River with anthropologist Ian Crawford in the late 1970s. His motivation to perpetuate the power of the Wandjina through his art was not dissimilar to the way in which regular restorations of rock paintings were an integral responsibility for many Kimberley tribes, including the Woonambal to whom Alec Mingelmanganu belonged. The Wandjina, spirits who preside over the rains and the unborn spirits of children, are found on the walls of caves, where they are said to have transformed into paintings upon their death. Thus the Aboriginal custodians believed that they did not create the Wandjina paintings, but inherited them from the spirits who first made them. Not all Wandjina look alike. Each clan is thought to be responsible for only a single Wandjina and it is said that there were so many of them that almost the whole Kimberley is criss-crossed by their paths.


Mingelmanganu is considered to be the master of this art form. His Wandjina are highly distinctive and unique in proportion, composition and tonal quality. In a number of his largest works the full-length figure of a Wandjina is decorated in lines of dots similar to body painting designs, intended to give a visual brightness which express the spiritual essence of the ancestral beings.

This painting, thought to be one of the artist's earliest works, was created on a sheet of stringy bark. The arched reinforcement, unique to paintings from Kalumburu, is achieved by tying and sewing a length of the cane-like supplejack vine to the perimeter with lengths of bush-string that has been spun from the inner bark of the red-flowered Kurrajong. The peaked shoulders and halo that surrounds the head are characteristic of Mingelmanganu&r