Rarriwuy Marika Residency

Week 5

This week we have come to understand the layering aspect of Rurriwuy’s work and have been taken through each technical stage of the process of how the Yolngu people traditionally work. Rarri talked about the patience needed to work as she does. She told us that she learnt to paint by watching and observing her father paint from a young age. Rarri told us how she concentrates and goes into herself when she paints.

Rarri has been working on a wonderful art work that she will leave as a gift for our school. Students have had the wonderful opportunity of watching Rarri work, but also observing the layers of line that Rarri has meticulously applied to the work every day.

We realised how difficult it is working with the brushes made of hair. The artist finds a rhythm and drags the brush over the paper, canvas or bark. The delicate line work is carefully drawn. It is called hatching.

We practised this line work using the hair brushes with white paint on black paper.

We then laid the foundation of the first stage of line patterning work around the central motive of the creature we painted last week. This was difficult and required much concentration.

Next week we will create the cross hatched lines using black, white, red ochre and yellow ochre.

This week is Rarriwuy’s final week with us. Our knowledge of Indigenous culture, stories, song, dance and design have been broadened and our understandings of Indigenous language and culture deepened. Our lives have been enriched by the knowledge she has generously and carefully shared with us. We have learnt so much from Rarri and we are all very sad to say goodbye. Thank you Rarri.

Week 6 Reflections:

This week we all missed Rarriwuy. Many students have commented on how wonderful it has been to have Rarriwuy as a guest at our school. She has taught us so much about Aboriginal culture, art and life, and we have all been touched by her visit.

Rarri told us she learnt to paint at the age of 19 by watching and observing her father while he worked on his paintings. She observed every detail as he painted. Rarri created a painting while she was resident at our school. We are so grateful to her for leaving this painting with us as her gift to our community. We will be hanging the painting in the foyer of our school.

During the week we have taken the time to reflect on the two weeks that Rarri spent with us. We have asked ourselves how our understandings about Aboriginal culture and art have changed. Most students felt that their understandings have changed a lot. They felt they now can look at Aboriginal art and appreciate that there is a story behind the work, that the painting techniques have taken many years to refine and that the works have taken much skill, technique, learning and effort over time. We have come to understand that there is a complexity about the works that we previously were not able to appreciate or understand. Rarri has helped us to both develop an understanding of her culture and deepen those understandings. Below are some of the student reflections:


“We learnt so much about the Top End, North Eastern Arnhem land, the country, the animals and the people.

“We have learnt a lot about Yolngu line painting and songs. The designs are line works and are about layering, hatching and cross hatching.”

“We have learnt so much about Aboriginal culture and how to read the designs of the Yolngu people. We have discovered new materials and new ways of painting.”

We learnt how to make brushes using human hair and twigs. It was so different from how we work.”

“Rarri taught us to paint in her traditional way and it was very difficult to learn in this way. The brushes took a while to learn how to use as they were curved and very soft. It took a lot of patience.”

“I imagined the story in my head as I painted my piece, just as the Aboriginal works tell a story.”

“We realised we don’t need to buy materials and brushes and paint to create an art work. The materials are there in front of us and come from the land. We just had to learn how to find them and make them.”

“The painting technique that Rarri taught us was challenging. The line work was so difficult. We had to concentrate on the quality of line, the perfection of line and the technical aspects of making a line. We now appreciate how skilled Rarriwuy is and how much she has worked with these materials in this way. Rarri is a professional.”

“I really enjoyed Rarriwuy telling the stories behind the art works.. It gave them a new meaning.”

Thank you Rarriwuy Marika. You have taught us so much.

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