Merrepen Art Centre is located on the side of the Daly River in the indigenous community of Nauiyu. The Daly River is formed by the juncture of the King, Katherine, and Flora rivers in the hills west of Arnhem Land. It Flows northwest for over 300km to Anson Bay on the Timor Sea. With its major tributary, the Fergusson, the Daly drains almost 60,000 square kilometre basin comprising flat or gently rolling country that supports cattle ranching. The Daly River and its tributaries makes up largest river system in the Northern Territory. The river is a place of beauty and abundance. A place where local people go, often daily, to gather food. A place where they sit and talk. The river has been there for thousands of years. It has been a main stay in the lives of local people all this time. But now the river is threatened.
The climate in the top end and across the world is changing. There is greater evaporation and more varied and dramatic climatic events. Locally, in the greater Daly region, there is more intense farming that is drawing water from the river—as cotton and watermelon farms get established in the area fed by river water.
This exhibition—Watch! Warning! Alert!—aims to draw attention to the importance and fragility of our local river environment. This place remains pristine and beautiful. However, there are signs of change. The turtles are less abundant and living more in the surface water. There are fewer fish. Year after year the water flow and seasonal change has become less predictable. The elders of Nauiyu say they are confused and can no longer predict the seasonal flows.
The works exhibited in this Godinymayin exhibition express aquatic plants and animals of the river system, and bring our attention to the preciousness and beauty that is the ecosystem on the Daly River Region. Images of fishtraps, a common motif in Kieren Karritpul’s work, as well as the portrayal of mats, woven strings and spears reinforce the cultural connection of the people of Nauiyu to their land.
This exhibition, while depicting the beauty of their Daly region, comes with a message from the Merrepen artists: The Daly River is under threat—hit by climate change and land use impact. We all need to act now, they are saying, to protect the environment and stop taking unnecessarily from the earth. Watch! Warning! Alert!
ABOUT MERREPEN ARTS
Merrepen Art Centre belongs to the Nauiyu (Daly River) community and was founded in 1986. It is a well established Aboriginal Art Centre situated 266 kms from Katherine. The Centre has grown from being a women’s centre to an internationally known art centre. Many of the artists have work included in major national and international collections, and in 2021 some of the artists who produce textiles exhibited at the prestigious Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.
The art centre is owned by the Nauiyu Community and operates with about 130 people dropping in at various times—and a core group of fifty who are regularly involved. The distinctive style of Merrepen artists is different to what is generally expected of Aboriginal art. It has been influenced by the location of the community in the tropics: landscape, colour, light in the area that is next to the Daly River. Many of the artists produce screen-prints, batik fabric designs, and hand-printed linocut fabric, and the art centre now produces limited edition print ranges. Their designs draw inspiration from the wetlands, plants and animals of this region.
Aaron McTaggart — Ann Carmel Mulvien — Carmen Gilbert — Christina Yambeing — Gracie Kumbi — Kieren Karritpul — Louise Pandella — Marita Sambono — Nola Jimarin — Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart OA — Susan Nurra — Troy Mardigan — Tenike Casey — Bradley Parling — Mezac Sambono