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20th C Signed Wanurr Namundja Aboriginal Bark Painting

Bob Wanur Namundja, also known as Wanurr Namundja (Australian, lived ca. 1922 to 2007), Mankorlod region of western Arnhem Land, ca. mid 20th century CE. Untitled bark painting. Signed on verso. Painted using natural earth pigments on a large strip of eucalyptus bark, this beautiful, colorful composition depicts a file snake (kedjebe, or Acrochrodus arafurae) with three eggs. The animal's body curves upward, forming a U-shape with the head perpendicular at the top of one side, the long tongue outstretched. The head and tail are mainly white, while the rest of the body is segmented, with thin, dense diagonal lines of yellow and dark red over a white background in each of the nine segments. The three eggs are white, divided in half by a band of yellow with red borders, and with two red X's, one on top and one on bottom of the band. All painted on a dark red background, with the white body of the snake in sharp contrast. Size: 9.25" W x 24.45" H (23.5 cm x 62.1 cm)

The kedjebe is a freshwater snake, found living in rivers, creeks, and billabongs (oxbow lakes), where it will burrow down into the mud. In the area where the artist was from, people wade out into the water during the dry season and reach into the mud to catch these non-venomous snakes. In the past, they would then kill them by taking the head in the mouth, biting it, and breaking the animal's neck. This painting was done in the age-old style of West Arnhem Land, which is part of the oldest continuous tradition of painting (from rock art to bark) known in the world. The colors are created from the ocher that is naturally occurring in the region.

The artist, alongside his brother, was featured in the exhibition "The Art of Two Brothers: Bob Wanur Namundja and Don Nakadilinj Namundja" at the Cross Art Projects in Sydney, Australia in late 2005. The curator, Andrew Blake, wrote, "The brothers pay homage to a bush life in their place, called Mankorlod, a place spiritually focal to the Kardbam clan. Their stylised paintings depict the beauty and mystique of the plants, animals, ancestors and creator beings, totems and myths associated with Mankorlod. Both men are Kunwinjku speakers of Nawakaji skin. Bob was the formal authority to Mankorlod… The brothers’ oddly metaphysical images describe a rich monsoonal forest pocket: livistona palms, noisy fruit bats and birds, possums in the rock ledges, snakes and echidnas, long yams and fruit and, in the waters made sacred by the Rainbow Serpent, lilies, fish and freshwater prawns."

A similarly-sized painting by the same artist sold at Sotheby's, London, in 2015 for approximately $3000: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2015/aboriginal-art-thomas-vroom-collection-l15321/lot.16.html

Condition: Excellent condition, with light surface wear commensurate with age. Signature on the back along with the title of the painting, written in black ink.

Provenance: ex-private Tucson, Arizona, USA collection; ex-Ron Perry collection; Ron Perry collected art and artifacts for more than 40 years in New Guinea and the South Pacific. He collaborated with Carolyn Leigh to write a book entitled, "Art Dealer in the Last Unknown: Ron Perry & New Guinea Art: the early years 1964-1972" (2011)

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