Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
27 March 2013


(c.1936 - 2002)

synthetic polymer paint on cotton duck

170.0 x 170.0 cm

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $36,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 28 - 27 March 2013, Melbourne

Purchased at Ngukurr in late 1987 by a health manager working in the region
Private collection, New South Wales

Catalogue text

Ginger Riley Munduwalawala was born on the coastal salt-water country of the Mara people in south-east Arnhem Land and was the custodian of his mother's country, which extends from the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria along the Limmen Bight River to the Four Archers - 'My mother country is in my mind'.1

Whilst still in his adolescence, Munduwalawala met the watercolourist Albert Namatjira, whose style was to have an ongoing impact upon his practice. The meeting with Namatjira was to resonate considerably, forging 'Riley's idea that the colours of the land as seen in his imagination could be captured in art with munangu paints.'2

Nearly two decades after his first attempt, a second opportunity arose when the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE established a printmaking workshop in the Ngukurr Aboriginal Community, formerly known as the Roper River Mission. Here Munduwalawala was able to experiment once again with the munanga colours of red, blue and yellow, mixing them to create green, purple and pink.

This painting, Limmen Bight Country 1987, a large painting executed by Munduwalawala in the first year of his art production, is centred on this expansive country, incorporating elements of the landscape, abundant animal and marine life, scenes of hunting and camp life together with images of the ancient mythological creation stories. As noted by MattKing 'Always an individual, Riley produced pictures of country in lateral perspective as well as conjunctions of animals and marine creatures flung together at odd angles sometimes on hot pink grounds.'3

In 1992 Munduwalawala received the Alice Springs Art Prize, that same year undertaking a commission for the Australian Embassy in Beijing. The following year he won the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Commission Art Award, and in 1996 was awarded the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council Fellowship for 1997-98 in recognition of his outstanding achievements. Between July and September 1997 a retrospective exhibition of his art was held at the National Gallery of Victoria.

1. Ryan, J., Ginger Riley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1997, p. 15
2. Ibid., p. 29
3. Ibid., p. 18