From the curator
Rarrirarri is an immersive experience from The Mulka Project pushing the boundaries of contemporary First Peoples art—bringing Yolŋu country into the heart of Melbourne and honouring the spirit of Mrs Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda.
The new work is paying respect to the late master artist Mrs. Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda (1947-2021) which is led by her family including her sister and grandson. Mrs. Wirrpanda was a senior artist and highly regarded nationally and internationally for her work, she was a master of bark painting, weaving, and talented carver and printmaker. Her work highlights the many sacred clan designs and the co-existence of animals within Yolŋu country. She was prolific in reviving knowledge of edible plants and nutritious foods of her youth for current generations and through her artwork highlighted the importance of these native foods and caring for the country they grow from. Rarrirarri is an expansive Yolŋu world view through the work of Mrs Wirrapanda and that of The Mulka Project creatives that continue her story and their culture today.
Rarrirarri enlivens the botanical, animal and spiritual designs of acclaimed Yolngu artist Mrs. Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda, who sadly passed away in 2021. Working with her grandson Ishmael Marika as creative director and Mulkuṉ’s sister Muluymuluy Wirrpanda as Cultural Director, our work inspirit’s the late artists designs through digital animation and sound. Mulkuṉ’s presence will be felt as her footsteps tread and her milkarri (sorrow songlines) resound through the forest of her moving designs. She will call the spirits of her Dhudi-Djapu clan. Rarrirarri will also feature songlines performed by Mulkuṉ’s nephew and senior DhudiDjapu song-man, Binygurr Wirrpanda.
Mulkuṉ’s guṉḏirr designs are cross-sectioned upon the guṉḏirr (mound). Acting as windows they reveal the intricate internal structure of the guṉḏirr, their passageways and chambers, as well as the eggs and creatures living symbiotically within them.
Mulkuṉ’s footprints appear, treading slowly between the guṉḏirr, we hear her voice, cry singing, “Rarrirarri, Rarrirarri”, she is singing milkarri, summoning the Rarrirarri spirits, the spirits of her Dhudi-Djapu clan. With each step her botanical designs begin to grow into existence, they spread around and climb up upon the guṉḏirr. As Mulkuṉ’s native terrarium evolves her voice is accompanied by Muluymuluy, her sister, the artist who is following in her footsteps. Muluymuluy’s botanical designs begin to grow, weaving alongside her sisters plants.
As flowers blossom Mulkuṉ’s boṉba (butterfly) designs are enticed into the garden. Binygurr Wirrpanda sings their songline and Mulkuṉ’s imagery of the boṉbamala (butterfly people) dance into the space.
Mulkuṉ’s ṉämbarra tree’s grow and the Ṉämbarra spirits call out from the far ends of the ballroom. The boṉba songline stops and we are left with the sound of the wind and the ṉämbarra trees swaying.
The ŋädi (northern meat ants), which have taken up residence inside the guṉḏirr, begin to move and trail out from their homes, down the mounds, into the garden, smelling and seeking the spirits. The spirits dissipate along with Mulkuṉ’s plants as the ŋädi weave between them.
Their purpose and journey now complete the ŋädi return to their home inside the guṉḏirr.
In the centre of the ballroom is a termite mound made from fiberglass. The mound is nearly 3 meters tall and a meter wide. A projection work is mapped across the mound and onto the floor. The projection features termites and ants and butterflies. It also has growing plants that weave throughout the floor at times. The soundscape is of singing and sound of Yolŋu country.
The Mulka Project and Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda (Yolŋu)
Senior Artist and Cultural Director | Muluymuluy Wirrpanda
Senior Songwoman | Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda (1942-2021)
Senior Songwoman | Muluymuluy Wirrpanda
Senior Songman | Binygurr Wirrpanda
Creative Director | Ishmael Marika
Sound Designer | Arian Pearson
Technical Designer | Joseph Brady
Animation | Bec Charlesworth, Dhukumul Wanambi and Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu
Fabrication | Stage ONE
The name, artwork and images of Mrs Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda are used with the permission of her family members.