Yolŋu Art, Collaborations and Collections

Edited by Rebecca J. Conway

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Format: paperback
320 pages
ISBN: 9781743327272
Publication: 01 Jan 2021

Publisher: Sydney University Press

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Longlisted for the 2021 NSW Premier’s History Awards for Australian History

“The patterns and designs were laid down on the country and in the minds of Yolŋu by the ancestral beings at the time of creation. They have been passed on through the generations from our great grandparents, to our grandparents, to our parents, to us. They are the reality of this country. They tell us all who we are.” — Djambawa Marawili AM

Djalkiri are “footprints" – ancestral imprints on the landscape that provide the Yolŋu people of eastern Arnhem Land with their philosophical foundations.

This book describes how Yolŋu artists and communities keep these foundations strong, and how they have worked with museums to develop a collaborative, community-led approach to the collection and display of their artwork. It includes contributions from Yolŋu elders and artists as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous historians and curators. Together they explore how the relationship between communities and museums has changed over time.

From the early 20th century, anthropologists and other collectors acquired artworks and objects and took photographs in Arnhem Land that became part of collections at the University of Sydney. Later generations of Yolŋu have sought out these materials and, with museum curators, proposed a new type of relationship, based on a deeper respect for Yolŋu intellectual frameworks and a commitment to their central role in curation. This book tells some of their stories.

Featuring over 300 colour images, Djalkiri is published in conjunction with a largescale exhibition of Yolŋu art and culture at the University of Sydney’s new Chau Chak Wing Museum, opening in November 2020. Spanning almost 100 years of our shared history, these collections can expand our understanding of the past and help us to shape the future.

Rebecca Conway is curator ethnography, Macleay Collections with the Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney.

Cultural protocols
Preface, by David Ellis
University foreword, by Jennifer Barrett

  • Yolŋu foreword: We are the archaeologists and the anthropologists, by Djambawa Marawili AM
  • Indigenous curation: Now and into the future, by Stephen Gilchrist
  • Dancing in the dust: Working with Yolŋu collections, by Rebecca Conway

Milingimbi / Yurrwi

  • A selection of work
  • Our djäma: Yurrwi, Milingimbi Art and Culture, Milingimbi Art and Culture with Rebecca Conway
  • Makarrwaḻa mali, Warner wuŋiḻi: Reflecting on an image from Milingimbi, by Rebecca Conway
  • Joe Gumbula: ‘Everything is telling us who we are’, Rebecca Conway with Aaron Corn
  • We make the future: Historical collections and contemporary Milingimbi, Ruth Nalmakarra and Rosita Holmes
    in conversation

Milingimbi / Yurrwi and Ramingining

  • Art from both centres


  • Keeping culture alive: an essay over the telephone, Bula’bula Arts with Rebecca Conway and Djon Mundine
  • Shifting frames: The first exhibition of the Ramingining collection at the
    University of Sydney (1984), by Bernice L Murphy
  • Crossing paths with the Ramingining collection, by Katrina Liberiou
  • Yol nhe yäku: What is your name?, by Djon Mundine


  • Art from Yirrkala
  • Buku-Ḻarrŋgay Mulka, Yirrkala and the world, by Will Stubbs, Ishmael Marika and Wukuṉ Waṉambi
  • Not an essay, by Will Stubbs and Gawura Wanambi
  • Precious gifts: Working with the Yolŋu barks at the Macleay Museum, Rosemary Stack and Jude Philp in conversation
  • Not just a bark, by Matt Poll
  • Dhäwu Joe Dhamanydjiwuŋ: Makarraṯapuy dhäwu, Makarraṯa and the exhibition, by Joe Dhamanydji
  • Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations, by Rebecca Conway and Matt Poll

About the authors
Artwork credits

'The overall presence of Yolŋu voice throughout the book is another invaluable element here, positioning Yolŋu as the authority in contextualizing collections ... Djalkiri: Yolŋu art, collaborations and collections is a fitting testimony to the history of the University of Sydney and its cultural collections and research, and the continuous and ongoing connections with the people of eastern Arnhem Land.'
Lindy Allen   Oceanic Art Society

Format: paperback
Size: 265 × 230 × 14 mm
320 pages
Copyright: © 2021
ISBN: 9781743327272
Publication: 01 Jan 2021