Exhibition: Maminjirrada (Hook Spear)
09 November – 10 December 2023
Laundry Gallery, NT General Store | Melbourne VIC
Presenting bold, new work by emerging artists Jarius Herbet, Arthur Herbert, Trexson Herbert, Gabriel Herbert, Dale Herbert and Tanya Wanambi, Maminjirrada is the first exhibition of the Anindilyakwa Arts’ contemporary weaponry revitalisation project.
Featuring predominately maminjirrada (hook spears), accompanied by mabarrkwa (fighting/dancing sticks) and awulmarra (woomeras), all artwork in this exhibition was created on Country, at Four Mile Outstation, located on the east coast of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where the artists live and work. As a family group, artists drew on contemporary references, such as manga sourced from youtube and social media, in addition to sacred familial narratives and traditional hand carving techniques. The resulting body of work is something both completely new and specific to the Groote Archipelago.
Maminjirrada are a traditional artform of the Wanindilyakwa and made alongside the shovel and stone spears for ceremony, hunting, fighting and, more recently, exhibition. Elvis Bara, senior artist, songman and elder uncle to the Four Mile artists, recounts the story of maminjirrada.
“Every clan had their own hook spear in the old days. The hook spear represents Groote Eylandt and their ancestors. They [the old people] went bush, collecting the timbers and start making maminjirrada – the real name for hook spears. They use only stringybark wood and [carve it] with the pocket knife they got in missionary times.
Fred Grey was there [in Umbakumba, near Four Mile Outstation] before the missionaries. He was a tough man. No one allowed to steal anything from his garden or he whip you. And if one man got three wives, had got to take two away. In Fred Grey time, no one is allowed two wives, three wives – just one. Yo, he was a tough man so they stop making maminjirrada so much too. They can be dangerous. If you get speared sometimes you’re gone. It has to go all the way through – if it stops halfway, you can’t pull it back out. But we don’t always use them for fighting though, we dance with them too.
The young ones here, lots have never seen the old men making maminjirrada. They couldn’t watch the elders and they couldn’t learn. One old man, he gave an old maminjirrada to my sister-in-law but someone took it, so her son didn’t see it. It was a real old maminjirrada and he got the style from his old man.
But maminjirrada is back at Four Mile now. The young men are making maminjirrada. They started with little ones but now they are making big ones. They’ve got the style. Their own style. [The boy’s] father’s father is Moccasin but he grew up with Anindilyakwa People because his wife was from Groote Eylandt. They learnt little bit different way from him and their dad. He teach them how to use a knife to make spears. He made wire ones, not hook ones, but they still learn. They have taken the knowledge and made it new. They will pass it on to their sons.”
Read more about the artists in the exhibition catalogue here.