In 2020, Sydney-based furniture and design brand Koskela made the commitment for their Gallery to operate purely as a platform to showcase the works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Their most recent exhibition, Top End Bugi, brings together 12 emerging and established artists from three different art centres in Arnhem Land, Buku-Larrngay Mulka Centre, Ngukurr Arts Aboriginal Corporation and Maningrida Arts and Culture, celebrating the medium of contemporary bark artwork in a range of different styles.
Top End Bugi combines Top End, a collective term given to the northernmost region of the Northern Territory, and Bugi, the Darug (the language of the Yuin–Kuric group) word for bark. As a cultural practice, bark painting is steeped in thousands of years of history, and is an incredibly important medium for communicating culture and stories, and connection to the land.
‘This story is from a long time ago. People travelled around from place to place to hunt for ŋatha (food)’, shares artist Mulkun Wirrpanda from Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, telling the importance of the Bulwutja (water yam) through her textured, intricate artworks. ‘First, we dig in the water for Buḻwutja. Then we make a fire. When the fire burns down we take the coals to one side and put sand on top of them. Then the hot sand cooks the Buḻwutja.’
Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Ngukurr Arts and Maningrida Arts and Culture are all Aboriginal owned and run art centres that do incredible work to support the artists and communities through providing opportunities for financial independence. Their significance really cannot be overstated!
Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre
Buku Larrngay Mulka Centre is located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community in the north-eastern region of the Northern Territory. The artists of Yirrkala are among the first Indigenous Australians to recognise the potential use of visual art as a political tool. As a hub of creativity and community, this art centre is home to many legendary artists, many of whom are renowned for their work on Ṉuwayak (Stringybark). Bark from the Stringybark tree is stripped, trimmed, dried by the fire and then weighed down to create a painting surface.
The Buku Arts artists exhibiting their work in Top-End Bugi at Koskela are Mulkun Wirrpanda, Djirrirra Wunumurra Yukuwa, and Manini Gumana.
On the banks of the Roper River in Ngukurr, South East Arnhem Land, Ngukurr is under the Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) which is managed by the Yugul Mangi Rangers. Ngurkurr Arts brings together people of many different clans and language groups including Ngalakgan, Alawa, Mangarrayi, Ngandi, Marra, Warndarrang, Nunggubuyu, Ritharrngu-Wägilak and Rembarrnga. Together these clans are known as Yugul Mangi. The region of Ngukurr is under the Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) which is managed by the Yugul Mangi Rangers. Operating since 1988, Ngukurr Arts is home to many talented artists with an adventurous styles and bold colours.
The Ngukurr Arts artists exhibition their work in Top-End Bugi at Koskela are Norman Wilfred, Wally Wilfred, Wayne Bingal, and Jill Daniels.
Maningrida Arts and Culture
Maningrida Arts & Culture is based on Kunibídji country in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. The area where artists live encompasses 7,000 square kilometres of land and sea, and over 100 clan estates, where people speak more than 12 distinct languages. An enterprise of the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, artists from Maningrida Arts & Culture have had works shown in galleries and museums all around the world.
Aboriginal people in this region are still on country, surviving and resilient because their country is the centre of their epistemology, their belief system, culture – djang.
Maningrida Arts and Culture have elected a lineup of all-female artists to exhibit work in Top-End Bugi at Koskela – Gloreen Campion, Apphia Wurrkidj, Matilda Pascoe, Eugenie Bonson and Melba Gunjarrwanga.
Top End Bugi
September 19th – November 1st
Open Fridays and Saturdays, 10am-4pm
1/85 Dunning Avenue