Carissa Gurwalwal

Carissa Gurwalwal – 'Yawk Yawk (Freshwater Mermaid) VII', 2023


Buluhkaduru Country.

Yawk Yawk is the Kunwinjku term used for young women. It is also used to describe special female water spirits that have fish tails. Sometimes Yawk Yawk are referred to as ‘mermaids’ and are said to live in trees and water in special places in western Arnhem Land. They are the spirit guardians of particular waterholes. Yawk Yawk first begin as tadpole-like forms, beforing growing fish tails. They spend most of their time in the water but when fully-grown they are able to change their tails into legs and walk on land to forage for food. They have Namarnkol (barramundi) as pets and Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent) serve as their protector. At the end of the wet season Yawk Yawk transform into dragonflies, which signifies to the Bininj (Aboriginal people) that the rains have finished.

Carissa Gurwalwal is a Bununggu artist based in Gunbalanya, Arnhem Land. She is from the Kune Kunwinjku language group and is the daughter of renowned weaver Barbara Guwalwal. Although new to painting, her work is attracting the attention of collectors and galleries nationally and internationally. Gurwalwal's interpretation of Wak Wak (Black Crow) is exact and striking. It is reminiscent of the work of her late aunt Ngalbangardi Gunjarwwanga, who continues to be an inspiration for Gurwalwal and her artwork. Gurwalwal works full-time at West Arnhem Shire's Aged Care Facility. 


July 1 – September 16

Brad Webb, Carissa Gurwalwal, Corben Mudjandi, Kim Ah Sam, Leanne Namarnyilk, Nicholas Currie and Tarryn Love.

Storytelling is central to Aboriginal culture. It is rooted in Country, family, and spirit. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been storytellers for millennia, passing knowledge from one generation to the next.

Presented as part of NAIDOC week, YARN connects to this year's theme, 'For Our Elders.' Elders are the advocates, trailblazers, knowledge holders, guides and pillars of our communities. They have fought for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ensuring the survival of the longest-living culture in the world. They are the reason we are able to thrive and be proud of who we are.

YARN brings together the work of seven Indigenous makers. Woven within each artist's practice are the stories, lived experiences, knowledges and relational connections to Country. This exhibition draws on important oral histories and the significance of knowledge sharing through conversation and listening. Each artist is an agent of their voice, speaking to the gravity of arts practice as a form of storytelling.

Read about the exhibition.

Material: Acrylic on wood

Dimensions: 79 x 5cm

Cat. no:3757-22

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