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New Naarm exhibition celebrates contemporary art from across the Aurukun region

Dechlan Brennan -

The opening of the AAK NGENCH THAYAN - STRONG COUNTRY exhibition took place in Naarm on Saturday - the first exhibition of 2024 at D'Lan Contemporary - presented in association with the Wik & Kugu Arts Centre.

The first collaboration of its kind, the exhibition showcases the artwork and practices of twelve artists - and 25 works - from the Wik & Kugu Arts Centre, in an immersive and first ever, sculpture-only exhibition at D'Lan Contemporary.

Located in the remote community of Aurukun on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula, the Wik & Kugu Arts Centre services the community's five Clans. It supports and celebrates the contemporary cultural expression of the arts across the regions. 

A Wik-Mungkan concept that reveres Traditional Country in all its natural beauty and strength, the AAK NGENCH THAYAN artwork has totemic significance, and despite not having been made for ceremony, is still connected directly to their traditional estates. 

(Image: D'Lan Contemporary)


The creation of these ritual objects for ceremonial purposes has maintained its strength through generational and ancestral lineage. The modern and contemporary practice embraces the performative tradition of song and dance, expressed through totemic animals carved into Milkwood. 

The space at D'Lan Contemporary hosts many of the totemic figures. 

These include a large pack of camp dogs, sculpted birds - such as the jabaru and brolga, a large cockatoo installation by award-winning artist Keith Wikmunea, and a flying fox installation by Winchanam artist Alair Pambegan.

The famous camp dogs are cheeky with a serious quality and a number of the works have been painted in a palette unseen before. 

Image: D'Lan Contemporary


Keith Wikmunea, whose work was recently viewed by the National Indigenous Times at the Melbourne Art Fair, is the winner of the 2023 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA). He was born in Aurukun and belongs to the WikAlken and Wik-Mungkan language groups. 

His totems on display include the galah from his mother’s side and white cockatoo from his father’s side, and his large-scale, fun and joyful sculptures are celebrated nationally. His sculpture 'Ku', Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah, and the Wandering Dog, won the pinnacle award at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. 

 It is the first time his large-scale works have been displayed alongside the rest of the Wik & Kugu male artists.

AAK NGENCH THAYAN - STRONG COUNTRY in association with Wik & Kugu Arts Centre is being exhibited at D'Lan Contemporary from 22 March - 3 May 2024


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