Lot 23 

Mimih Spirit

Susan Marawarr

114 x 13 x 3 cm
Ochre on carved wood
Bid on this piece
About the Artist

Kuninjku artist Susan Marawarr was born in 1967 into a strong artistic family. She is the daughter of Anchor Kulunba and Mary Wurrdjedje, and the sister of acclaimed bark painters James Iyuna and John Mawurndjul.  Marawarr is an accomplished printmaker, sculptor, weaver and bark painter. Common subjects of her work include the powerful djang of wak wak, ngalyod and yawkyawk mythologies alongside the imagery of popular everyday items like dilly bags, fish-traps, mats and baskets. She is known for her striking black and white palette.  This combined with her use of deep perspective often creates graphic optical effects, movement and energy in her idiosyncratic works.

 

In 2000, she collaborated with the Waanyi artist Judy Watson in the development of Watson’s public art commission of fish fences and dilly bags cast in bronze for Sydney International Airport. Marawarr toured the United States in 2001 with the exhibition Bush Colour promoting the work of female printmakers as well as supervising bark painting workshops.

 

Over the last decade Marawarr’s artwork has been shown at numerous galleries and cultural institutions including, Gabrielle Pizzi, Annandale Galleries, JGM (London) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Her work is held in many national collections including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Victoria and National Gallery of Australia.

About the Work

Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land tell of the existence of tall slender spirits which they call Mimih. The name Mimih is well known throughout the top end of the Northern Territory. Aboriginal groups living in the rocky environments of western and southern Arnhem Land share mythology which relates to the beings known as Mimih. These groups include the Kunwok chain of languages,and also Rembarrnga, Dalabon and Djawoyn language groups. Other groups of people with familial and ceremonial links to rock country inhabitants are also familiar with the idea of the Mimih.  In recent years the Mimih has become a topic in the repertoires of some artists among the Kunibídji people, speakers of the Ndjébbana language and the traditional landowners of the Maningrida area.

The people of western Arnhem Land believe that Mimih spirits live in a social organisation similar to Aboriginal people and that Mimih society existed before humans.  Mimih are credited with instructing the first people with knowledge relating to survival in the rocky environment of the Arnhem Land plateau.  Mimih are said to have taught the first humans how to hunt and butcher game and also how to dance, sing and paint.  The song and dance style of western Arnhem Land Aboriginal people is still known today as Mimih style. This term is also used by Aboriginal people further to the east in Central Arnhem Land when describing the dance and song of their western neighbours.

Despite the usual descriptions of Mimih as being benign towards humans, sometimes however they areattributed with mischievous and dangerous qualities, capable of kidnapping and even killing humans. 'Clever' men, or Aboriginal men with supernatural powers, sometimes befriend the Mimih and are taught their songs and dances and shown their secret places.

The Mimih are like people using the same kinship terms and speaking the same language as the local Aboriginal group. They live in families like humans and it is said that some of these Aboriginal men with mystical knowledge have spent time living with them in their camps. Mimih are however, terribly thin, having necks so slender that a stiff breeze would be fatal.  For this reason they emerge only on windless days and nights to hunt. As soon as a breeze develops, the Mimih are said to run back to their rocky caverns and disappear inside.

Notable Collections
  • Dr. Colin and Liz Laverty private collection, Sydney, NSW

  • Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, WA

  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Maningrida Collection, Sydney, NSW

  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT

  • National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW

  • Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC

  • UQ Art Collection, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD

©  Environmental Defenders Office NT. 

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