LANGUAGE GROUP: Yolngu
Naminapu's moiety is Yirritja. She is from the Manggalili clan, Belang group, and her homeland is Djarrakpi. Djarrakpi is about 190kms from Yirrkala and is home to some world famous artists from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre. Naminapu Maymuru-White is one of these artists, with exceptional skills in the areas of painting, carving, screenprinting, weaving, lino-cuts and batik work.
She was taught to paint from an early age by her father and uncle, Narritjin and Nanyin Maymuru. Both men were well-known artists, whose works hang in many Australian and overseas museums. Naminapu was taught to paint using Miny'tji - sacred clan designs, particularly patterns that represent family places and totems - that have previously been the domain of men.
Naminapu is among the first female artists to have been taught these designs and to have used them in her works. She is one of a strong group of female artists that have emerged within the Yirrkala community over the last 50 years.
After attending the Yirrkala mission school, she worked for some time in the store and craft shop and also at the local bank. When the Homeland Centre of Gurka'wuy was established in 1973, Naminapu went to live there with her husband and young family.
During the years she spent there, Naminapu worked as a teacher trainee and later, on her return to Yirrkala, completed her teacher training. When she later married Leon White, a teacher in the Northern Territory, Naminapu went to live for several years in Melbourne and Darwin.
Naminapu has travelled extensively within Australia as well as to Japan. In 1985, Naminapu returned with her husband and family to live in Yirrkala, now no longer a mission station but a locally governed Aboriginal community.
Following her return, she taught art to the children at the local school and then began working at the Craft Shop attached to the Buku-Larrnggay Arts Centre. In 1990, she was appointed Curator of the Art Museum attached to the Arts Centre, a position that she held until 1996.
Over the years there has been a shift in her practice, as she eliminates Miny'tji details from her works and creates her own ways of representing her clan identity. Her works highlight the innovation that is possible within the strict guidelines of cultural inheritance.
Naminapu often paints the Milky Way story by representing the events that took place in ancestral times and illustrates the constellations figuratively. Her larrakitj and lithoprints have won awards at the prestigious Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Her works are frequently included in combined exhibitions in Australia and overseas and she is now herself represented in most major institutional collections in the country.
Copyright Kate Owen Gallery April 2021