- Medium: Acrylic on pre-primed cotton canvas, stretched and framed
- Year: 2023
- Size: 83 x 100 cm
- Artist skin name: Nawamud
- Clan: Burlarldja
- Born: 1979
- Language group: Kunwinjku
- Community: Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)
Namarnkol, the barramundi, is a very important fish for us Bininj (Aboriginal people). Namarnkol are found in the ocean, in floodwaters, and in freshwater billabongs, rivers and creeks. In the old days, people used to spear them with djalakirradj (three-pronged fish spears) and walabi (traditional triangular nets). Nowadays, we catch them with fishing lines and modern nets.
Namarnkol are most easily caught from the end of the monsoon (March -April) until the humid “build up” season (October-November). There are sites in lots of clan countries where the ancestral Barramundi placed itself as a Dreaming. Men and women will say “My Dreaming is Barramundi, it placed itself in my country”.
Kunwinjku art is part of the oldest continuous art tradition in the world. Ancestors of today’s artists have been painting the rock walls of West Arnhem Land for tens of thousands of years. The traditional palette of white, red, yellow and black comes from the ochre that naturally occurs in the region, although contemporary artists sometimes choose to paint in acrylics as well. Kunwinjku artists famously paint using either the traditional rarrk hatching technique, or the more contemporary and complex cross hatching technique which has been adapted from ceremonial painting. These lines are carefully painted using a manyilk, which is a piece of sedge grass shaved down until only a few fibres remain.
Shaun Namarnyilk is the son of Rita Nadjongorle (dec) and Bundy Namarnyilk (dec). Shaun is an experienced artist, tour guide, musician and storyteller. His aesthetic continues to develop, drawing on the ancient rock art stories and styles of Injalak Hill and other rock art sites around Western Arnhem Land. Shaun has also worked as a ranger. While caring for country as a ranger Shaun has had access to many remote and inaccessible rock art sites that few people have had the privilege of visiting in thousands of years. Shaun is inspired by the ancient knowledge and aesthetics of his ancestors to create remarkable contemporary paintings that span subjects from traditional knowledge and sacred spirit beings to current affairs like the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the community of Gunbalanya, as well as the diverse challenges and benefits that living in a remote community presents. Shaun mixes coloured pigments and ochres to create backgrounds which reflect the surface of the rock itself. One of his grandfather’s was Djawida Nadjongorle, and other one was Spider Namirrikki, along with Jimmy Namarnyilk. Shaun has previously worked as a ranger, caring for the Stone Country of West Arnhem Land.
The photo shows Shaun, at far right, with his artwork.