Ngukurr Arts Centre

Top End Bugi - Stone Spear - Norman Wilfred


This is the stone spear dreaming that’s in the water, we used the stone axe and stone spear in the olden days.

Norman Wilfred has a long history of using bark as his canvas for art. He was born in 1964 in Mountain Valley but grew up in Ngukurr. At 16 years of age, Norman made the long (250km) journey to Walker River on foot in search of his country with his father. After a couple of days around Walker River, they found Ngilibitji, where they set up camp and built a paperbark house, living off the land and bush medicine. It was in this time that Norman learned the art of bark art from his father.  

Using paperbark as their surface, the pair would create unique pieces that started to gain traction in the surrounding areas, with people from Katherine flying in to buy their works. His reputation for creating such beautiful works across bark has only grown through his current practice at Ngukurr Arts.

Top End Bugi is a showcase of innovation and expertise from the Arnhem Land Artists of Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, Ngukurr Arts Aboriginal Corporation and Maningrida Arts and Culture. Presenting a series of works on Stringybark and selection of Larrakitj, Top End Bugi celebrates the creativity and diversity of bark artists, emerging and established. Connecting city and country, Top End Bugi is a spotlight for contemporary bark art, combining Top End, a collective term given to the northernmost region of the Northern Territory and Bugi, the Darug (Sydney Aboriginal Language) word for bark.  

As a cultural practice, bark art is a continuation of tradition, passing down sacred stories, designs and teachings through intricate strokes. The collection process begins after the wet season when the Stringybark tree is stripped, cured by fire, weighted and left to dry. Then using earth pigments, designs are layered, often with crosshatched strokes that speak to the cultural identity and visual language of the artist.  

Artist: Norman Wilfred  
Title: Stone Spear, 270-19.
Medium: Bark Painting
Dimensions: 127 x 50cm

Exhibition Catalogue


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