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Men painting on bark
Title : Men painting on bark Men painting on bark
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Creator : Mountford, Charles P., photographer
Source : PRG 1218/34/2729A
Date of creation : 1948
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 60 x 60 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
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Description :

Two Aboriginal men from the Oenpelli area. One is painting the figure of a kangaroo on bark, the other is watching.

The stringy bark used is gathered at the end of the wet season, when it is more flexible, and is easier to peel from the tree. Once removed, the bark is treated to make it more pliable, then flattened, trimmed and cured. Paint is produced from mineral pigments; the red and yellow is ochre, black is manganese and the white, clay.

The paintings of western Arnhem Land are less intricate than those of the North-east, and are more likely to feature bold designs on a monochromatic background.

Whilst the majority of people living at Oenpelli in 1948 were from the Gunwinggu language group - who had migrated west toward the Mission, and its predessessor, the Oenpelli Station early in the 20th century - this painting of a kangaroo hunt was made by an elder of the Kakadu people, who had inhabited the area previously.

Bark paintings collected at Oenpelli featured totemic designs, spirit people (good spirits - mimis, bad spirits - mamandis) and dreaming stories, as well as images of plants, birds and animals, intended to increase their adundance.

Mountford and the Expedition collected over 500 bark paintings from Arnhem Land. Many were later distributed by the Commonwealth Government to state museums and galleries. It is reported that these were "the first Aboriginal works collected in the field and accepted by Public art galleries, not only for their ethnographic significance, but also for their aesthetic qualities." (Lock-Weir, 2002)
Coverage year : 1948
Place : Oenpelli
Region : Northern Territory
Further reading :

American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948). Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 1956-1964

Berndt, Ronald M. and Catherine H. Man, land & myth in North Australia : the Gunwinggu people, Sydney : Ure Smith, 1970

Berndt, Ronald M. and Phillips, E. S. (eds). The Australian Aboriginal heritage : an introduction through the arts, 2nd ed, Sydney : Australian Society for Education through the Arts in association with Ure Smith, 1978

Cole, Keith. A history of Oenpelli, Darwin : Nungalinya Publications, 1975

Hamby, Louise (ed). Twined together = kunmadj njalehnjaleken, Gunbalanya, N.T. : Injalak Arts and Crafts, 2005

Lamshed, Max. 'Monty' : the biography of C.P. Mountford, Adelaide : Rigby, 1972

Lock-Weir, Tracey, Art of Arnhem Land 1940s-1970s, Adelaide : Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002

National Geographic Magazine, vol. 96, no. 6, 1949, pp. 745-782, 'Exploring Stone-age Arnhem Land' by Charles P. Mountford.

Simpson, Colin, Adam in ochre : inside Aboriginal Australia, 5th ed, Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1962

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