John Mawurndjul website: Ngayi ngakarrme bokenh – mankerrnge la mankare

A digital resource space, – driven and owned by the artist – was developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) to support the major retrospective exhibition John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new (MCA, Sydney, 6 July – 23 September 2018; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 26 October 2018 – 28 January 2019; and touring nationally throughout 2019–2020).

John Mawurndjul (born 1952) is a Kuninjku master bark painter from Western Arnhem Land. He is celebrated for his mastery of rarrk (fine-painted cross-hatching), a tradition shared by generations of Kuninjku artists. The exhibition of bark paintings and sculptures tells the stories of Kuninjku culture and the significant locations surrounding the artist’s home in Western Arnhem Land.

For the MCA, the website is a milestone of deep consultation over two years between the artist, his community and the Museum. The design of the site was interconnected with the development of the exhibition and 400-page catalogue, in association with Maningrida Arts & Culture, Maningrida, Northern Territory. The website combines both Kuninjku cultural norms and the user tropes expected within the museum sector in a flexible design that is relevant as an in-gallery mobile guide, an exhibition resource and a cultural archive.

The main purposed of the site was to introduce the notion of Australian language and the importance of it. The public was fascinated with the resource and especially the films in three languages: the artist’s voice in Kuninjku, the transliteration of Kuninjku and the English translation.

The Kuninjku audio excerpts were used by tour guides and educators, and allowed them to correctly pronounce in language the names of different places and sacred topics.