MCA Sydney
Curator: Keith Munro

10 Dec 2010 to 20 Mar 2011

This summer, the MCA also presents Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek AO. Running from 10 December 2010 until 20 March 2011, this solo-exhibition explores the practice and legacy of one of Australia's most distinguished Aboriginal leaders and respected artists. Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek AO passed away in October 2009 aged 83 on his country at the remote west Arnhem Land Outstation of Kabulwarnamyo. This artist and renowned visionary was one of only two Aboriginal Territorians to have been awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to the arts and Indigenous land management. He was the last of his clan's rock artists and considered a living National Treasure prior to his passing. Nadjamerrek's knowledge of his lands, the stories and their translation to the rocky environs of the Western Arnhem Land plateau was unsurpassed.

This major survey exhibition showcases the artist's unique paintings on bark and paper, which reflect the images found on cave walls and inside bark shelters. It provides an opportunity to connect with the stories and places depicted so strongly in Nadjamerrek's work, as well as a greater understanding and respect for the artist's traditions and culture.

Nadjamerrek was born in the Mann River region of Western Arnhem Land around 1926. The nickname 'Lofty' was given to him at a young age due to his imposing height. As a child, he created his first painting on rock walls under the watchful eye of family members. His earliest rock art images are at Karrmadjabdi, a shelter in his Mok clan estate on the Liverpool River, where he painted a number of fish species, a yam, rock possum and representations of Namorrddo spirit beings by shaping bees wax and pressing them into the rock. In 1969, under the encouragement of missionary Peter Carroll, Nadjamerrek began to paint commercially. He always used natural ochres, be it on rock art surfaces, paper and bark.

As a prominent elder, Nadjamerrek resided over the clan estates with important rock art sites, representing some of the oldest forms of human expression. As a result, the Kabulwarnamyo outstation became a kind of remote university campus: Nadjamerrek and his family received a constant stream of dry-season visitors: conservation scientists, anthropologists, writers, photographers, biologists, botanists, fire ecologists, zoologists, entomologists, linguists, anthropologists, historians, filmmakers, musicologists and museum curators.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, featuring commissioned texts on the work of Bardayal Nadjamerrek in the contexts of Australian art, Aboriginal art and culture and the bark painting movement.

MCA Sydney
140 George Street
The Rocks
Sydney, Australia

Credits:  Bardayal Nadjamerrek, Leaping kangaroos, c.1970, ochres and synthetic polymer on bark Museum of Contemporary Art, gift
of Arnott’s Biscuits Ltd, 1993 Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney © Estate of Bardayal Nadjamerrek

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