Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala is one of Australia’s premier Aboriginal art centres. Buku-Larrnggay meaning is “the feeling on your face as it is struck by the first rays of the sun (i.e. facing East)”.
This Aboriginal owned art centre was established in 1975 and supports the Yolngu people of Yirrkala and more than 20 homelands in region. The Yolngu artists from this region have established a worldwide reputation for excellence. They are well known for their bark paintings and cohered memorial poles, woodcarvings and yidaki (didgeridoos). It is in fact the traditional home of the Yidaki (digeridoo), and some of the world’s finest didgeridoos are still made in Yirrkala.
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre and Museum is in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the northeastern tip of the Top End of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. Our primarily Yolngu (Aboriginal) staff of ten services Yirrkala and the approximately twenty-five homeland centres in the radius of 200km.
Yirrkala Arts was established formally in 1975 but art has been created here since time immemorial and shared with non-Yolngu since their arrival. In the 1960s Narritjin Maymuru set up his own beachfront gallery from which he sold art that now graces many major museums and private collections. He is counted among the art centre’s main inspirations and founders, and his picture hangs in the museum. His vision of Yolngu-owned business to sell Yolngu art that started with a shelter on a beach has now grown into a thriving business that as of 2005 puts over a million dollars into the pockets of the community’s artists every year.
The old ‘hospital’ or clinic in which many of the artists of today were born was converted to become the ‘craft shop’ and over the years there have been a number of additions and renovations. The current centre is an impressive building belying its humble beginnings. The additions include: a Museum (1988); screen print workshop and extra gallery spaces (1996); and the Yirrkala Church Panels annexe (1998), a theatrette and multi-media centre (2007).
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Museum displays a collection of works specifically created for it in the mid-1970s and early 80s by elders which provides an outline of the kinship structure of the Yolngu world. The jewels of the collection are the two four metre tall Yirrkala Church Panels (1962-3) that have been described as amongst the most important Australian art in existence.
Entry to the museum is by Gold Coin Donation.