This work is an outcome of a phase where the artist of her own motion explored lesser known plant species which she feared were being forgotten by younger generations. This coincided with artist John Wolseley’s interest in returning to Yilpara and the two spent an extended period exploring the botany of Blue Mud Bay. She wants to renew the knowledge of this plants because when she was young this is the food that she grew up on. In those days old people lived for a long time without illness.

The project began when the two artists Mulkun Wirrpanda and John Wolseley were part of Djalkiri- We are Standing on their Names- a collaborative art project at Yilpara in 2009. Later Mulkun adopted John as her Wawa or brother, and gave him the name Langgurrk. They spent ten days together in the remote Blue Mud Bay region in Midawarr, the harvest season, when many of the little known root foods are ripe. Since then John Wolseley has journeyed to East Arnhem land each season, and the two have hunted rare plants, painted them; and eaten the unique tropical yams and tubers .

From the Yirrkala perspective the origin point of this show was Mulkun’s spontaneous expression of her conviction that her people are dying through their lack of attention to this knowledge. It was shortly after this statement that she and Wolesley came together over this joint mission.

Since then Wirrpanda has been making a comprehensive series of barks, larrakitj and prints about the poorly recognised food plants of East Arnhem Land. They figure plants and trees of various kinds which live in the Yirrkala region. And since 2009 John Wolseley has also been making drawings, woodcuts and large works on paper about the same plants and landscape. A breakthrough moment was when John sent Mulkun some slabs of ancient Huon pine. She began to make these woodcuts most of which were later taken by John to his home studio in Victoria where he acted as her printmaker. This was the last block of wood which remained unused unƟl late in her life by which time she had moved on to the theme of meat ants Ŋäḏi living in the mounds guṉdirr of termites. This woodblock was printed by Sean Smith at his Melbourne studio but the edition was completed only after her death. It has been signed on the artist's behalf by her younger sister and fellow artist Muluymuluy Wirrpanda.

This work was made using Chine-collé and woodblock.

Text courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.

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  • Ms M Wirrpanda | ŊÄḎI GA GUṈDIRR 5819-22
  • Ms M Wirrpanda | ŊÄḎI GA GUṈDIRR 5819-22