Karrang Kunred / Mother Land
Karrang Kunred in Kuninjku means ‘mother’s homeland’ or ‘the country of my mother’. The women chose this title for their exhibition as the women share one ‘mother country’ – the stone country in West Arnhem Land, near Mumeka and Barrihdjowkkeng homelands. The Kuninjku homelands comprise rocky sandstone escarpments scattered with rock art, dense paper bark forest, freshwater rivers and seasonal floodplains. The palette of country is shown throughout this exhibition, with paintings featuring only natural pigments collected on country and the textiles mirror these hues.
In general speech, the artists refer to this country as their ‘mother’, which reveals the deep cultural connection to place. As Deborah Wurrkidj speaking about the significance of Karrang Kunred says: “We are thinking about our land. Our thoughts always return to our homeland. The old people, they taught us all this a long time ago. My father’s sisters, my mother’s mother and my aunties, they taught us, and now we know.”
All three women are from a strong line of Kuninjku artists who live on homelands and in Maningrida, Arnhem Land. The Wurrkidj sisters’ uncle James Iyuna, who taught his two nieces how to paint, is featured in collections internationally. Susan Marawarr is sister to world-renowned artist John Marwurndjul. Susan Marawarr featured in the acclaimed Crossing Country, AGNSW 2004), yet very little work by Kuninkju women artists has been seen in a solo context.
The women of Maningrida make up a large part of the lively contemporary art scene and are strong voices advocating for change. Through the Babbarra Women’s Governance Group the artists have been lobbying for better health services in Maningrida, for environmental protection of their country (against fracking), and for supporting people to return to live on their homelands.
As Jennifer Wurrkidj explains: “Us bininj (Aboriginal) mob, we are same like our country. That country is like us, and we are like that country, like family. We are just one, same like them animals, snakes, birds – any type really. And when we pass, it just goes back in like one circle, you know. Like that, that’s the story”.