When inaugural Art Curator Caroline Field began investigating the University’s sprawling and diverse art collection, spread across seven Australian campuses and various storage facilities, she came across many hidden gems with sometimes obscure stories to tell. One item in particular, an ochre on bark Indigenous artwork raised great interest and warranted further investigation and identification.
With the enthusiastic participation of Linc Yow Yeh, Coordinator of the ACU Indigenous Higher Education Unit (Jim-Baa-Yer), it was agreed that the item needed to be accurately identified, professionally mounted, and placed on prominent display within the University. Initial research determined that the item was placed on loan to the University from a private benefactor in 2003, and with the assistance of National Gallery of Victoria curator Myles Russell-Cook, the artist was confirmed as being Minyipa Munuŋgurr, a prominent artist from Arnhem Land and the eldest son of the late Djapu clan leader Djutjadjutja Munuŋgurr.
In this fine example of the artist’s work, titled Wandawuy c.1990, the cross hatched background is characteristic of the Miny’tji traditional sacred clan designs, with the motif of the ancestral being Thunderman on either side of the ceremony ground (or Wukiti) at Wandawuy in the Northern Territory.
Caroline Field said: "It has been a wonderful opportunity to collaboratively engage with the First Peoples & Equity Pathways Directorate on a developing area within the art collection that promotes and fosters an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and spirituality, and its welcoming of the Catholic Faith."
Linc Yow Yeh added that "the acquisition of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from Victoria for the Melbourne Campus demonstrates the ACU’s aspirational endeavour to recognise, understand and respect the complex diversity of Indigenous Art in Australia."
Wandawuy has been mounted on a rear panel with security fixings and mounting clips, and is now on display in the Level 1 Lobby within the Mary Glowrey Building, Melbourne Campus.
Further highlights from the ACU Art Collection on display at the Melbourne Campus include:
Karen Mills Floodline (i-vi) 2016. A series of six paintings depicting the floodplains that surround Sturt Creek in the desert of the East Kimberley in Western Australia. Location: Concierge
Peter Yoomarie (Tjupurrula) Wanayarra Dreaming, 1992. Location: Mary Glowrey Café