Orion Expedition Cruise - 'Art of Arnhem Land'

6 May - 11 May 2010

Bula'bula Arts is proud to announce that we are going on tour... via the coastline of Arnhem Land!  We have been invited by the luxury cruise ship the Orion to come aboard the 'Art of Arnhem Land' expedition, which will visit Aboriginal Art Centres through the top end of Australia in May.  

Senior artists Peter Gambung and Bobby Bununggurr, accompanied by Louise O'Neil (manager) and Sara Higgs (curator) will board the vessel at Yirrkala, and visit communities such as Galiwin'ku, Maningrida and the Tiwi Islands before disembarking in Darwin.  As well as having the opportunity to talk about local art and culture, we will also be showing key examples of artwork produced from Bula'bula Arts.

This is not the first time Bobby has been invited to work on a cruise liner.  He fondly remembers a time when he and David Gulpilil performed at sea several years ago.  We are all looking forward to seeing the country from a different perspective and meeting the other passengers.  


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Goshawk, by Brian Nyinawanga circa 1984. Collection MCA, as featured in
The Native Born. © MCA

Sculpture from Central Arnhem Land encompasses both woven figure objects and wood carvings. For the purpose of bringing the life force of creator beings into sacred and public ceremonies, figurative representations of snakes, birds, and animals are made in symbolic shapes and realistic representations. Such objects form a major part of the ceremony, to be danced with or around and then to be discarded after the ceremony.

Gulu, a softwood from the Kapok tree is used in the contemporary carving of figures representing creator beings and totemic species.


In eastern Arnhem Land in particular, Aboriginal people were taught by their ancestral heroes to place the bones of the deceased in hollow logs. These dupun, or hollow logs, naturally hollowed out by termites are decorated with sacred clan designs, as the body had been. The hollow log coffins were placed upright in the camp with the bones inside and left to decay naturally. Occasionally dupun may be sent back to the clan's country to be erected in the bush where rain, winds, and bushfires ensure that the spirit of the deceased will return to its source.

Today most dupun are created for sculptural rather than burial purposes, though the symbolism is by no means lost. Artists from Ramingining and the surrounding region collaborated in 1988 to put together The Aboriginal Memorial, now housed in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Perhaps the most important work of art produced in the last 200 years, the Aboriginal Memorial commemorates all Aboriginal people who have lost their lives defending their land since 1788.



Raw hollow logs being collected for
The Aboriginal Memorial.
© Djon Mundine 2004



The Aboriginal Memorial
© National Gallery of Australia 2004