Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn)

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

This project was executed after the artist’s passing by his collective Mimili Maku Arts, led by Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and Sammy Dodd.
All spears were made by Sammy Dodd.

About the artist

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams
Born 1952 in Inturtjanu (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia
Died 2019 in Alice Springs, Australia
Pitjantjatjara

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams was a political activist, cultural leader and ngangkari (traditional healer). He proudly shared and protected the knowledge and duties given to him through his culture. In his art practice, he addressed issues including governance, sustainable land management and the protection of sacred heritage sites. As one of the founding members of Mimili Maku Arts on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, his vision was to create more agency for Anangu artists, to create potent platforms for their voices to be heard.

Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin
Born 1952 in Palmer Creek, Australia
Lives and works in Mimili (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia
Pitjantjatjara, Arrernte

Sammy Dodd
Born 1948 on Henbury Station, Australia
Lives and works in Mimili (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia
Pitjantjatjara

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

"Our Tjukurpa Law is all-encompassing. It was always intended to be eternal, but we know it is at risk. This is why I am documenting it now. I want to raise people’s consciousness. I want us to be acknowledged by the wider society and the government. I am hoping to start a movement of new awareness."

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams




Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn)

This installation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales features UV-cured flat-bed prints on hand-finished untreated canvas with additions in paint, ink and tea; suspended from spears made from kulata (spearbush) and mulga, malu pulyku (kangaroo tendon) and kiti (mulga leaf resin).

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn)Biennale of Sydney

Filling the space of the entrance court are banners bearing words and images from Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’ personal archive, projecting his belief in the power of words to effect change.    

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Kunmanara was planning a political protest piece for the Biennale before his passing in March 2019. The project was carried forward by his widow Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, his lifelong friend and collaborator Sammy Dodd and his community. 

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Language was a central aspect of Kunmanara’s life and work as an artist, orator and activist.   

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

The banners shown were brought back to Country, gathering marks of the land, of being read, of being carried forward into the next generation. 

Hand-written Notes of the Artist; Experiments on Found Maps Hand-written Notes of the Artist; Experiments on Found Maps (2012/2019) by Kunmanara Mumu Mike WilliamsBiennale of Sydney

Inside the old courts, a display of selected materials from Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’ archive of writings, notes and sketches gives insight into his richly varied and dynamic processes, showcasing some of the source material for his powerful words.

A museum edition of his posthumously published book 'Kulinmaya! Keep listening, everybody!' (2019) speaks to his communities’ desire to keep teaching his messages and pass on knowledge to future generations. 

Hand-written Notes of the Artist; Experiments on Found Maps Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

An important part of Kunmanara’s work is the use of drawing and writing on found maps and appropriated Australia Post bags, reversing dominant chains of communication. 

Hand-written Notes of the Artist; Experiments on Found Maps Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Writing of the first time he used a mailbag, Kunmanara said, 

"I envisaged the mailbag being posted along on a journey, just exactly like a letter that has been written and then read. And yes, so I sent it out into the world with a message on it from me and my family."

Nyaa Manta Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

This work Nyaa Manta (2016) by Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams is made of tea, ink, chalk pastel on paper, framed by spears made from kulata (spearbush) and mulga, malu pulyku (kangaroo tendon) and kiti (mulga leaf resin).

Nyaa Manta is considered particularly significant by his community and links to the dynamic installation in the entrance court, which pays tribute to the powerful messages he conveyed through his work around land, law, culture, and the passing on of knowledge.

It also forms the final image in his book, 'Kulinmaya! Keep listening, everybody!. As a concluding message it projects Kunmanara’s longstanding desire to share knowledge and raise consciousness, finishing with the question ‘Do you understand me?

English translation:

"What is land? 
No. 
It belongs to the old men and the old women. 
Understand that this whole continent is sacred land, 
Belonging to the senior men and women. 
Listen. This whole continent is filled with the power of the Dreaming. 
It is our land. 
Do you understand me?"

Keep exploring Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams' work inside the entrance and old courts of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Translation Booklet Translation Booklet (2020)Biennale of Sydney

Read the Kulilaua munuya nintiriwa (Listen and learn) 2020 booklet to learn more about the artist.

Translation Booklet Side 2Biennale of Sydney

Explore the powerful words presented on the banners in language using these English translations.

Credits: Story

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn), 2020 
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Fondation Opale Courtesy Mimili Maku Arts

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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