Area: Oenpelli, Western Arnhemland N.T.Commissions:
97 / 2002 Artist in residence, Aboriginal Fine Arts, Darwin.
1998 National Heritage Art Awards
Ross is becoming one of the most famous of the younger painters of the
Kunwinjku tribe at Oenpelli. Although relatively young, his work,
and particularly the fine crosshatching, (rarrk) is regarded as superior
to that of many of the older artists.
Ross is the son of Paul Yulidjirri, who was not an artist, and so after
he had gone through his first ceremony to make him a young man Ross was
taught by his uncle, world famous painter Thompson Yulidjirri, whose works
hang in major art galleries and have been illustrated in authentic art books.
He is the keeper of the sacred myths of the Kunwinjku, and is gradually
passing these on to Ross.
His mother, Mary Yulidjirri, was married to Bobby Nganjmirra, regarded by
many as the greatest artist of the Kunwinjku tribe, and she and Bobby both
handed on their 'dreamings' for Ross to paint. By so doing Ross has now
become a very important man of stature. His traditional land, owned by his
father and uncle, is Nimbuwah Rock, an outstanding feature of the landscape
between Oenpelli and Maningrida.
Ross with his painting of Nimbuwah Rock
A painting of Nimbuwah Rock, in which the spirit of his ancestor the Rainbow
Serpent resides, was entered in the 1998 National Heritage Art Awards, which
was judged in Canberra in April, and was accepted for hanging in the old
Parliament House from thousands of entries. The very fact of this acceptance
places him in the forefront of traditional Aboriginal artists. This painting
was selected to go on tour with the National Heritage Art Commission.
NIMBUWAH: The Sacred Dreaming
Towering into the sky and dominating the surrounding country, Nimbuwah is
an outlier near the western Arnhem Land escarpment. Nimbuwah is a sacred
site for the Kunwinjku people.
In the time of nayubyungki, the First People, a tall young man
named Nimbuwah came from the south, near Pine Creek, bringing
with him Gularrmundidj, his widowed mother. They were searching
for a good place to live and eventually to metamorphose into rocks.
This was the dream of all people living at that time: to have
their spirits enshrined forever in sacred rocks and revered by
future generations. Ideally they preferred to choose the time
they would metamorphose, but sometimes dangerous events or the
sin of breaking tabus precipitated their transformations.
At the first place they decided to settle Nimbuwah and Gularmundidj
were turned away by Yirriyu, Nimbuwah's mother's nephew, who
claimed the site as his own. So the son and mother retreated further
to the east and made camp near Cooper's Creek, about 42 kilometres
(26 miles) from Gunbalanya, where fresh running water and plenty of
food were available. Here Nimbuwah took for himself a young girl,
However a mighty hunter, Djiribidj, also wanted Warramundud, and so
he plotted to kill his rival Nimbuwah. Djiribidj came across Nimbuwah
one day when he was carrying his young wife because she was tired.
He hurled his stone axe at Nimbuwah with such force that it severed
his head from his body. Warramundud was flung out of Nimbuwah's arms
and landed heavily onto the ground, where she turned into a rock next
to her husband, who had already transformed himself into a tall rock.
The stone head of the axe separated from its shaft and flew away; the
place where it landed is now a small rock. The mother, grief stricken
at the loss of her son and terrified of the murderer, also changed
herself into a rock. Djiribidj became a pigeon and flew away.
Nimbuwah rock is shown in the centre of this painting. The boulder on
its top represents Nimbuwah's head and the bottom section, his body.
His mother's spirit is in the rock on his right, and the spirit of his
young wife is in the rock on his left. These rocks and the area in
front of them are sacred and must not be approached without permission
from the traditional owners, but the artist states that the area behind
Nimbuwah is not sacred. It was there that his father spent most of his
childhood, living in a cave with his family. His family taught him the
story of this sacred site and how to record it in painting, so that the
deeds of Nimbuwah would live on forever.
Ross has depicted the
Rainbow Serpent and Mimi Spirits