YARINKURA, Lena, 1948
Artist Biography

My dogs, 2001
approximate installed size 25.0 cm x 150.0 cm x 150.0 cm
Courtesy of Maningrida Arts & Culture, NT

Before I started working with metal, I was making things just from pandanus and wood. Things like Wurum and Yawkyawk [spirit figures] and animals like dogs, quolls and bandicoots. I was also doing bark painting a little bit, but mainly sculpture.

The work in metal is new for me. I started last year when that mob [Urban Art Projects (UAP)] came to the art centre in Maningrida and taught me what to do. They showed me first the plasticine and how to make things with it. Then I went to Brisbane [to the UAP foundry] and I saw the way you can pour the hot metal [into a mould taken from the plasticine pattern]. The first thing I made in metal was a dog. We broke it out of the mould when it was hard and then they polished it up.

The reason why I'm working now in metal is because it's really strong. It's good for big projects and it can go outside. I couldn't put my pandanus work in a park (for example), it would disappear in the rain. I haven't stopped making things in pandanus, I'm just working harder to make things in metal too.

I make a lot of dogs, because the dog is my Dreaming. It's important for me.

A long time ago, there was a big dog, like a lion. This dog had a lot of power. He could change the shape of the country. One day this dog was looking for water, he had been running and running and was very thirsty. He ran up a hill on my country at Buluhkaduru and went in to the jungle there, looking for water. He started to dig, but found nothing. He kept digging and digging until he disappeared. Today, you can see the hole he made. It's still there. We know that dog is still there too. He watches over my country. He'll bite you if you're not careful. We call that hill Gordeme, which means Dog Dreaming.

This work [for the sculpture prize]1 is about my own dogs. Manmunj, the oldest female dog, was looking for a mate and found that Garlang-ngartba, the boss dog, was interested in her. You can see him smelling her tail. There are two other male dogs looking at Garlang-ngartba; one is lying on his belly - his name is Arngurduppu, and the other, called Gurrwerhgurrwerh, is lying on his side. These dogs are upset, as there is no chance for them with Manmunj. There is a girl dog watching too, called Werlemberlh. She has her head down. I think she's jealous and is wishing she were Manmunj.

My dogs are hunting dogs. If they get a pig or a buffalo, they'll camp out bush at the place where they've killed it. Sometimes they might bring a little pig home to let us know. But this is not a hunting story, it's a story about my dogs having fun.

Lena Yarinkura, September 2001. Text compiled by Fiona Salmon, Arts Advisor, Maningrida Arts & Culture.

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My dogs, YARINKURA, Lena, 2001, Courtesy of Maningrida Arts & Culture, NT
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My dogs, YARINKURA, Lena, 2001, Courtesy of Maningrida Arts & Culture, NT