Mimih Spirits
By Maningrida


Mimih Spirits

Hand carved and painted Mimih Spirits by Indigenous artists James Iyuna and Sam Namunjdja.


JAMES IYANA - James Iyana of the Duwa moiety, paint on bark and carve the myths and legends associated with the mimih spirits. James Iyuna is the son of the renowned fish trap maker, Anchor Kalunba, and learned to weave with jungle vine to make traps and nets when he was young. 

James and his three brothers had very little Western education because of the difficulty of getting to schools at Oenpelli or Maningrida, the nearest townships in Arnhem Land, from their home at the Mumeka outstation, where he and his wife still live today. Instead, he learnt the traditional art and culture of his Kunwinjku clan from his uncle, acclaimed bark painter Peter Marralwanga.

james regularly exhibits interstate and overseas and in 2006 James and his wife Melba Gunjarrwanga were commissioned to create a public art project for the Darwin Entertainment Centre in 2006. They are making a ceiling structure for the 240-square-meter verandah area, inspired by traditional fish net fences and constructed out of copper wire. They have drawn on their skills as weavers to design and construct the installation, which they began working on in January 2007.

SAMUEL NAMUNJDJA - Samuel Namunjdja was born in West Central Arnhem Land in 1965. A member of an artistic family, Samuel was taught to paint the stories of his clan by his father, Peter Marralwanga, himself a distinguished painter.

Samuel held his first solo exhibition at Niagara Galleries in 2004, but has participated in more than 30 important group exhibitions as far afield as Slovenia, Japan, France, UK and USA since 1988.  In addition to being a regular finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, he was also shown in the important cross-cultural Living Together is Easy a joint exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre, Japan and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. His work was also included in the seminal Crossing Country exhibition curated by Hetti Perkins at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

A common theme of Samuel Namunjdja’s work is the gungurra or wind dreaming.  These paintings depict not only the spiralling winds and cyclones common in Arnhem Land, but also refer to Bilwoyinj, a site near Samuel’s clan estate. At this place, it is said that a father and son, important creation beings known as na-korrkko in the Kuninjku language group, hunted and ate a goanna, leaving behind some of the fat which became the rock salt that can be found at the site today. Bilwoyinj is also the ceremonial ground for Yabbaduruwa, a major ceremony which is concerned with matters of initiation, land ownership and the cycles of regeneration of man and nature. Other favourite subjects are the mimi spirit figures, Ngalyod rainbow serpent and the Namarrkon lightning man. Like many younger artists, Namunjdja paints not only these traditional stories, but also looks to less sacred surroundings and everyday activities such as fishing for yabbies, and other animals and plants.

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Handmade in Australia. 



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