“We Are Just Like the Stars”

Gulumbu Yunupingu, Ganyu (Stars), 2003, Earth pigments on bark, 70 7/8 x 31 1/2 in. Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl © The estate of Gulumbu Yunupingu, courtesy Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. Photo: Sid Hoeltzell

The infinite reaches of space are a primary inspiration for Gulumbu Yunupingu, whose first depictions of stars date to 1999. Stars are frequently found in Yolngu ceremonial painting and relate to significant Dreaming narratives, such as the sisters Guthayguthay and Nhayay who became stars in the Milky Way, and the seven sisters who traveled by canoe, named Djulpan. These stories were taught to Yunupingu by her father, Mungurrawuy. Rather than literally depict these narratives, the artist conceives the stars as a metaphor for the unity of humanity: “We are just like the stars. All gathered close together. We are really as one like the stars.”

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.

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