I am a daluk (woman) from Western Arnhemland. I am from the Namiri group and the Marrkolidjban outstation. Its a big outstation on the road from Maningrida to Darwin, there is a river with crocodiles, fish, everything.
I am the youngest daughter of Jimmy Birriyula the Traditional Owner of Marrkolidjban. My mother is Makumirri a daughter of Marralwanga. There are many good artists in my family. There are painters like my grandfather Marralwanga, my Uncle Ivan Namirrki and I call John Mawurnjul father and Owen Yalandja is my big sisters son.
I was born in Darwin and grew up at the Marrkolidjban outstation. I used to watch my Mari (mother’s mother) Barbara Ngalmababba (one of Marralwanga’s wives) making everything; like baskets and mats. She told me “Later on in the future you will make things like these.” When I started growing up I went to school in Maningrida. When I was around 15 years old I saw my future husband. He had come to Maningrida for a ceremony, he had a big sister living at Maningrida. He saw me dancing at that ceremony and his sister told him to give me a ‘djamalak’ (present). His family checked with my family and they said yes. He went back to Gapuwiyak and we used to talk on the public phone over many months (in those days there was only one phone in the whole community). One day he came back with his whole family to get me. His father (Traditional Owner for Gapuwiyak) was already known in the area. His family met my family, especially my uncles. After they told him to look after me in a good and proper way he was allowed to take me to my new home in Gapuwiyak. We both spoke different languages when we met but we wanted to be together and quickly learned how to communicate with each other.
Later my Husbands mother Helen Djaypila Guyula started to teach me the pandanus weaving techniques. Now I know everything; basket, mat, bulpu (dilly bag), dyeing, string. My art looks a bit different to the Gapuiwyak style. I had all the styles from Maningrida in my mind but not in my hands. When Djaypila showed me the techniques, the styles came out of my mind and into my hands. My mind still rings with what my Mari showed me. I am now teaching my own daughter to be an artist.
It makes me feel good to make art, it makes me happy. When I collect the pandanus I will have an idea in my mind for a weaving, like a basket. Next time it might be a mat or a lamp shade. Sometimes I remember something I saw my grandmother make and I will try that. I like using traditional colours; plain, red, yellow, black, green and all the different shades. I like to do what my Mari did, I keep thinking about my Mari’s story. All my uncles, fathers, mothers, aunties they are all artists, I grew up around that. This is what I have inherited, the way they worked, how they chose things. My husbands family are also artists, art is always around me. I also do art for money, so I can feed my kids.
I was a Telstra Art Award finalist in 2014