LANGUAGE GROUP: Yolngu
COMMUNITY: Gurka'wuy, NT
Ganbilpil (Patrick) is an emerging artist at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in North East Arnhem Land. His moiety is Dhuwa. He is from the Marrakulu clan and his homeland is Gurka'wuy. The small Aboriginal community of Gurka'wuy is located 170kms south of Yirrkala, NT.
Patrick graduated from year 12 at Yirrkala's Bilingual Community Education Centre, and in 2005 he started work at Dhimurru as a ranger. His responsibilities involved managing the sea country team and he helped coordinate projects such as Turtle monitoring and tracking, Ghost Nets, Marine Debris clean-up and training. Patrick has also completed his Coxswain training for maritime operations.
Patrick is a self-taught musician and was the lead guitarist for East Journey- a band that gained national and international attention for their fusion of contemporary and traditional music and singing in both English and Yolngu. After an extensive touring schedule, the band has taken a break and Patrick continues to play music while also developing is art.
Patrick is the son of well-known artist Naminapu Maymuru White. He has been strongly influenced by his mother's representations of the cycle of the Manggalili clan spirit which lies within the Malngiyawuy River. The river is the site where two Ancestral Hunters drowned and went up to the night sky. The dense band of stars in the Milky Way is also called Malngiyawuy and is the Yirritja moiety land of the dead.
In his larrakitj poles, Patrick has created an impression of Malngiyawuy as a river of stars flowing across the night sky. The meandering lines that run down the length of the pole represents the general shape of the Milky Way, but it is also the clan design of the Manggalili clan, known as the ngaraka (backbone of the clan).
The figurative stars in his art can represent the souls of the dead, no longer linked to their physical remains, and symbolically their spirits are now part of the 'backbone' of the clan - the sacred dimension that ensures its continuity.
Patrick has incorporated some innovative techniques in his larrakitj poles. Like his mother, he creates a foreground of strong star-shaped images with an impressionistic background of the night sky in a white dotted pattern.
But Patrick has also carved into the body of the pole and cut out stars or large sections of the hollow stringybark pole to emphasise the form of the design. Patrick is part of an exciting new generation of artists from Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre that are combining established techniques of carving and painting in innovative ways.
Patrick currently lives in Djarrakpi and has taken on the ranger's role so that he can care for his mother's homeland.
Copyright Kate Owen Gallery 2021