Important Australian Indigenous Art
22 March 2023


(c.1945 - 2021)

natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark (stringybark)

77.0 x 195.0 cm (irregular)

bears inscription on Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre label verso: artist's name, homeland and cat. 3200-17

$15,000 – $20,000
Sold for $31,909 (inc. BP) in Auction 73 - 22 March 2023, Melbourne

Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, Northern Territory
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above in 2017

Deutscher and Hackett would like to thank Will Stubbs from Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre for his assistance in cataloguing this work.


Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 July - 22 October 2017 (finalist)
The Moment Eternal: Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin, 25 April – 25 October 2020


Gibson, P., 'Politics of landscape: the 2017 Wynne Prize finalists', The Conversation, 24 July 2017, (accessed 17/02/23)
Feagins, L., 'In the Running for the Wynne', The Design Files, 26 July 2017, (accessed 17/02/23)
Scholes, L., et. al., The Moment Eternal: Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin, 2020, pp. 123 (illus.), 147

Catalogue text

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Buku–Larrŋgay Mulka Centre which states:

‘This bark painting was exhibited as a finalist in the Wynne Prize 2017 at the Art Gallery of NSW. Nyapanyapa’s work has been more valued for the spontaneity and texture of her hand. She expresses her capacity to live in the moment in the freeness of her mark making. There is no calculation or even regard for the audience in her renditions. Their final appearance is almost random. They are an expression of the movements of her hand as they happen to have taken place on that particular day.

In early 2008 she made a dramatic departure from the previous conventions of Yolngu art. The grammatic tense which Yolngu sing/paint/discuss the creation forces that shape their world is unknown to non-Indigenous. Sometimes simplified as ‘Dreamtime’ in English it conveys a temporal union between prehistory, the present and the distant future. All of these time zones are happening simultaneously! This is the tense in which the creation events happened/are happening/will happen. All Yolngu art until this point was either sacred and in this tense or decorative. Decorative paintings were expressly ‘ordinary’ and without meaning or story of any kind.


The artist at work
Courtesy of Buku–Larrŋgay Mulka Centre

But once prompted to treat the story of her almost fatal goring by a Buffalo in the seventies Nyapanyapa threw these conventions over and unleashed a unique set of personal narrative paintings revolving around her own experiences. This subjective, individualistic and linear narrative construction was totally out of step with all previous Yolngu art. The first of these was so surprising it was entered in the 2008 Telstra NATSIAA Award. To bolster the chances of preselection an explanatory video was produced by the newly founded digital archive and studio attached to Buku–Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, The Mulka Project. As it happened the video was completed and the bark had been accepted but the entry was varied to include the bark and video as a 3D installation. Another first was achieved when it won that prize in the Telstra Award.

On the night she received the prize she had a nightmare of the Buffalo and vowed never to paint the beast again. From here she devolved into works that initially showed the forest without the Buffalo; this work a gentle landscape of bush apple trees – that forest.’