Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
18 May 2011


born 1960

natural earth pigments on carved and shaped hardwood

200.0 cm height

$4,000 - 6,000
Sold for $5,760 (inc. BP) in Auction 20 - 18 May 2011, Melbourne

Maningrida Arts and Culture, Northern Territory
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Maningrida Arts and Culture which states in part: 'Yawkyawk is a word in the Kunwinjku/Kunwok language of Western Arnhem Land meaning “young woman” and “young woman spirit being”. The different groups of Kunwinjku people (one of the Eastern dialectgroups call themselves Kuninjku) each have Yawkyawk mythologies, which relate to specific locations in clan estates. These mythologies are represented in bark paintings and sculptures of Yawkyawk beings. There are also a few examples of rock art images of these beings.The female water spirits Yawkyawk or Ngalkunburriyaymi are perhaps the most enigmatic of mythological themes. Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, they exist as spiritual beings living in freshwater streams and rock pools, particularly those in the stone country. The spirit Yawkyawk is usually described and depicted with the tail of a fish. Thus the Kuninjku people sometimes call them ngalberddjenj which literally means “the young woman who has a tail like a fish”. They have long hair, which is associated with trailing blooms of green algae (called man-bak in Kuninjku). At times they leave their aquatic homes to walk about on dry land, particularly at night.’