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String games, Yirrkala
Title : String games, Yirrkala String games, Yirrkala
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Creator : Mountford, Charles P., photographer
Source : PRG 1218/34/2797
Date of creation : 1948
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 60 x 60 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
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Copyright :

The Library received cultural clearance from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala to display this image. Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia.
This image may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Description :

Aboriginal children being taught string games on the beach, Yirrkala.

According to the Yolngu people, string and string figures were first made by their ancestral creators, the Wagilag Sisters.

The string, made from Kurrojong bark fibre, can be manipulated into hundreds of figures, depicting human and animal activity, the landscape, plants and elements of ritual.

After his investigation of string figures at Yirrkala, Expedition member Frederick McCarthy reported that it was home to the greatest number of identified figures in the world at that time (over 400).
(See Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, Vol II).

As well as a past-time, string figures, and the string itself is said to have a number of 'social-magical' associations, and users must be very careful what, where and with whom figures are made.

Whilst in daily life, the making of string figures is more of a woman's past time, there are figures made by men also. The boys in this photograph are receiving instruction from Wandjuk Marika.

Wandjuk (1927-1987) was the eldest son of artist and leader, Mawalan Marika (1908-1967) and assumed the role of leader of the Rirratjjingu people after Mawalan's death.

Taught to paint by his father, he became a successful international artist, and later a founding member of the Aboriginal Arts Board and an OBE recipient.

As well as being exhibited in art galleries worldwide, the Marika family was instrumental in the artwork and text of the Yirrkala bark petitions presented to the Commonwealth Government in 1963.
Related names :

Marika, Wandjuk

Coverage year : 1948
Place : Yirrkala
Region : Northern Territory
Further reading :

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

Elkin, A. P., Berndt, Catherine and Ronald. Art in Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Cheshire, 1950

Hutcherson, Gillian. Djalkiri w nga = The land is my foundation : 50 years of Aboriginal art from Yirrkala, Northeast Arnhem Land, Nedlands, W.A. : The University of W.A. Berndt Museum of Anthropology, c1995

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

McCarthy, Frederick. "The string figures of Yirrkalla" in American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948). Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 1956-1964. Vol. 2.

McKenzie, Maisie. Mission to Arnhem Land, Adelaide : Rigby, 1976

Marika, Wandjuk. Wandjuk Marika : life story as told to Jennifer Isaacs, St. Lucia, Qld. : University of Queensland Press, 1995

Morphy, Howard. Ancestral connections : art and an aboriginal system of knowledge, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1991

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

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