Photo of Ivan’s wife, Louise Dingawanga and grandson, who brought the painting into the gallery, Ivan paints on country and rarely goes into town
Community Centre: Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land
Outstation or Country: Marrkolidjban
Language: Eastern Kunwinjku
Local Group (clan): Kardbam clan
Social Affiliations: Yirridjdja moiety, Bulanj subsection
Subjects: Ngalyod – Rainbow Serpent, Ngurrurdu – Emu, Yawkyawk spirit, Mimih spirit, Nayuhyungki bininj – Ancient People, Namorrorddo spirit; Kuninjku ancestral stories
Ivan is the eldest son of the late Peter Maralwanga, famous bark painter, whose works hang in major art galleries and museums. An entire exhibition of Peter’s work, held in Perth some years ago, was purchased by the late private collector Robert Holmes a’ Court. Maralwanga taught both Ivan Namirriki and his four nephews to paint when the family lived at an isolated outstation called Marrkolidjpan, between Oenpelli and Maningrida. Later the nephews moved further towards Maningrida, but Ivan remained as guardian of the vast traditional lands he has now inherited. He is also the ceremonial leader of his clan, and the keeper of all the myths telling of the history and religion of the Kunwinjku tribe.
Ivan has several children and when they reach young adults he will start teaching his sons how to paint on bark and on Arches Rives paper, so that the stories handed down to him by his late father will never die out. He still hunts and fishes in the traditional way, and has great obligations on him to look after all of Maralwanga’s seven wives and many children. It is incumbent on him to keep painting to supply all their needs and to keep improving his outstation. He helped his father grub out the trees by hand to form an airstrip and to erect a windmill on the banks of the freshwater creek beside his camp, and is anxious to improve the living conditions of his extended family by building houses better than the bush shanties and corrugated iron dwellings at present on the site. He does not drink liquor, and is a most conscientious and dedicated leader of his people.
Ivan is now regarded as one of the foremost artists of the Kunwinjku tribe. He has reached the level of fame accorded to his father, who painstakingly taught him how to paint the complex designs of crosshatching, (rarrk), appearing on the bodies of the creatures he depicts, using the brilliant colours which belong to the clan. The ochres are found in secret deposits in the ground, the white colour comes from a clay site in the bush, and black is charcoal from camp fires. His work is much sought after throughout the world.