AUSTRALIAN ROCK ART ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA
In 1998, the Australian Rock Art Association (AURA) conference, ‘Making a Mark’, was held at the Australian National University in Canberra. At the conference Pathway Project photographic evidence of Gwion Gwion rock art illustrated a paper spoken by Nyawarra in which he revealed and explained the names and meanings of ancient Kimberley plateau artists.
Gwion Gwion – artists as inventors of hunting technology and painting techniques
Munga.nyunga – artists as visionaries of legal concepts and social structures
Jenagi Jenagi – artists as messengers importing and exporting sacred objects along exchange routes or pathways dulwan.
Of these three common titles for artist, the singular Gwion also retains the historic link with the cultural origin of the painting tradition with the Gwion Gwion bird.
Jeff Doring supported Nyawarra’s paper by presenting the significance of Gwion Gwion rock art in its context as Wunan evidence. The munnumburra’s knowledge presented by Nyawarra and Doring through the Pathway Project transcended and eliminated any association with the colonial term ‘Bradshaws’ which had previously branded Gwion Gwion rock art throughout ‘the literature’. With this, the ‘Bradshaws’ title was removed as an inappropriate neo-colonial term.
Despite the truths presented at the conference some academics refused to acknowledge the munnumburra’s evidence arguing that it was outside ‘the literature’ and therefore unworthy. Still, today, some continue to reference Gwion Gwion art incorrectly thereby refusing its relationship with the Wunan and sustaining the ‘terra nullius’ attitude of colonial law.
1999 AUSTRALIAN ROCK ART ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE ALICE SPRINGS, NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA
At the 1999 AURA conference in Alice Springs Jeff Doring presented a paper illustrating the mudurra headdress of Gwion figures, which distinguishes Gwion Gwion human images from other images. Doring’s paper described the significance of mundurra as a graphic motif in Gwion paintings depicting wigs made from human hair associated with Wunan districts and cultural resonance in Ngarinyin and neighbouring languages. The mudurra can be known as an extension of the human form, both as an icon of the local associations for the resident family and their ancestors plus an indication of legal connections within the wider cultural region.
Doring told the conference that some Kimberley paintings show solitary Gwion wearing mudurra and that, during Pathway Project recording, the munnumburra interpreted these as signifying that the figures portrayed are in a private state of being with their ancestor’s homeland; also that, when considering the direction they face, other intereptations of their orientation are possible including sentinel relationships to a local boundary or other mamaa or restricted sites on dulwan–pathways of cultural evidence.