10 May 2023

Aurukun artists off to Sydney for gallery opening

| Cape York Weekly
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Keith Wikmunea painting a ku’ carving at Aurukun’s Wik and Kugu Arts Centre.

AURUKUN’S famous ku’ (camp dog) carvings are among 160 works installed in the inaugural display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the newly located Yiribana Gallery at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Aurukun deputy mayor Craig Koomeeta and Wik and Kugu Arts Centre manager Gabriel Waterman will accompany artists Leigh Namponan, Keith Wikmunea, Vernon Marbendinar, Lex Namponan and Roderick Yunkaporta to the exhibition in Sydney this week where they will give talks on their art.

Nine artists from the Wik and Kugu Arts Centre have carved 26 dogs that will be located in various groups across the gallery’s existing buildings and their new buildings, which officially open on Saturday.

Aurukun mayor Keri Tamwoy said the Wik and Kugu artists were enjoying a number of successful exhibitions and sales over the past year to galleries and private collectors.

“Wik-Mungkan artist Alair Pambegan’s ancestral story of Walkaln-aw (bonefish story place), produced with the assistance of Nathan Ampeybegan, was purchased by a private collector in Canberra,” she said.

“The large installation was part of the Tim Klingender Fine Art Gallery exhibition at Australia’s premiere art fair, the Sydney Contemporary.

“The National Gallery of Victoria has purchased two large sculptures by Apalech men Keith Wikmunea and Vernon Marbendinar showcasing their puulwuy (totems) which were displayed in the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

“Keith’s ‘Tee’with yot-a!’ features thee’with (cockatoo), kallam (galah) and minh tech (goanna) and Vernon’s ‘Nguk-al yotam-an Puulwuya!’ shows the nguk (owl) sitting in a tree.

“Our community’s artists had record sales at both CIAF and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, and recently exhibited at the Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne.

“These successes are testament to the rich cultural heritage belonging to the Wik and Kugu people which they express through their art and are a good indicator that there is a healthy demand for this kind of work.

“Our community takes great pride in empowering our children through teaching culture and sharing our in-depth spiritual connection to our country and our kin.”

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