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Garry Djorlom / Goanna Dreaming

53cm x 57cm Acrylic on Canvas



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SKU: CH19 Category:

DOB: 1963
Tribe: Kunwinjku
Region: Western Arnhem Land
Community: Gunbalanya [Oenpelli]
Outstation: Gumarrirnbang, Marrkolidjban
Language: Kunwinjku
Social Affiliation: Dhuwa moiety, Nabangardi subsection

Garry is the son of Dudley Djorlom, a traditional bark painter who taught his son to paint on rock and on bark. He had a very good schooling in his youth, and took his promised wife, Doreen, when she was still in her early teens. As the son of a ceremonial leader he learnt the traditional way of life, and is an excellent hunter and food gatherer. He has appeared in several documentaries depicting both his talent as an artist, a dancer, and a hunter in the old way, using four-pronged fishing spears, and digging sticks for yams.

Garry has achieved fame as a master painter on bark and on Arches Rives paper. He lives at a remote outstation called Gumarrirnbang, in the Stone Country between Oenpelli and Ramingining. This homeland centre is owned by an old man called Timothy Nadjowh who was a great artist but is now too old to paint. He is worried that without sons to carry on recording the history and religion of his tribe the stories will be lost forever. He has therefore decided to gradually pass on his myths to Garry whom he considers to be a man of stature and worthy of keeping them safe.

Garry has painted “Dit the Moon Man”, the first story Timothy has given to him, and it was entered in the 1998 National Indigenous Heritage Art Awards held in Canberra, this painting went on to receive a highly commended award. He has also had exhibitions in Perth and Melbourne. It is only a matter of time before Garry becomes world famous. John Kluge, the wealthy collector who has built an art gallery purely for Australian Aboriginal works in Virginia, U.S.A., bought several of Garry’s paintings which have been illustrated in the book entitled: “Kunwinjku Art, the John W. Kluge Commission”.

Highly Commended, Australian Heritage Commission Art Award, Old Parliament House Canberra

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

Museum Arts International P/L, North Adelaide.
1994, Kunwinjku Art from Injalak, 91– 92, John W. Kluge

In the beginning of time there was very little water in Western Arnhem Land until an Ancestral Being called Water Goanna place water over the region, creating waterholes and rivers, so that the Aborigines living in the area would always have a plentiful supply of drinking water. For this deed Water Goanna is honoured in the secret and sacred mardayin ceremony.

The tribes in Arnhem Land are divided into two moieties (halves), Dhuwa and yirritja. Each is responsible for protecting and caring for the ecology of their own land. Also, to keep the bloodline pure, opposites only are permitted to marry, otherwise the relationship is regarded as incestuous. Severe punishment can occur if people marry the ‘wrong’ way.

In the mardayin ceremony, Water Goanna is the most important song and dance cycle of the Dhuwa moiety. A huge wooden replica of the creature is carried into the dance ground on the shoulders of Dhuwa dancers as other Dhuwa dancers crouch down and imitate the walking and running actions of goannas. At the same time a number of yirritja dancers, whose most important totem is Crocodile Ancestor, carry in a wooden replica of the reptile on their shoulders, while other yirritja dancers perform the actions of crocodiles crawling across dry land. This concludes the ceremony.

The ceremonial leading dancer of the Goanna group must be a very skilled performer who has perfected the difficult action of continuously flattening his stomach in a series of quick jerking movements. It takes a long time to perfect this exercise, and many dancers find it impossible to fully master the technique.

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