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Renew Jabiru

Drive into Jabiru township, the gateway to Kakadu, and it’s impossible to miss the huge, colour-filled mural wrapping itself around the sides of what used to be the bakery. It’s an artwork that packs a lot of symbolic punch.

By Anna Dowd

The cross-cultural collaboration is the start of a new chapter for Marrawuddi Gallery, as it prepares to re-open the building as a buzzing artistic, cultural and tourism hub for the region.

Owned by the Mirrar Traditional Owners of Kakadu and parts of Western Arnhem Land, Marrawuddi operates as a gallery and art centre, with everything from paintings to screen printed fabrics and fibre art.

Manager Katie Hagebols says the new space includes plans for a large gallery, outdoor area and native gardens, where artists and visitors alike can come, hang out, engage and create.

“The Traditional Owners' vision is that this be a place of cultural support, resourcing and making art for the Mirrar and surrounding clans. Where they can come in, sit down, have a cup of tea and be creative as a by-product of a welcoming space.”

Jabiru was built in 1982 to service the nearby Ranger Uranium Mine, but with the mining lease finishing up next year, the new Marrawuddi Gallery space is just the start of a collaborative new vision for the town.

“In the past, Jabiru and Kakadu might have seemed that bit far for Darwin crew, or they might come for a weekend occasionally, but just pass through Jabiru,” says Hagebols.

“Hopefully that can start to change now.”

Mirarr Traditional Owner Simon Nabanardi says they are looking forward to welcoming more people to Jabiru and Kakadu to share their country
and cultural heritage.

“As the town changes, we hope Jabiru will be recognised around the world as a significant Australian cultural destination,” Nabanardi says.

“A place where learning about living culture is accessible in a meaningful way.”

Renewing the streetscapes of Jabiru is a visual step in this direction, and Hagebols points out the mural project, completed during Mahbilil Festival last year, brought together many parts of the community to witness and take part in an historic moment.

Visiting muralist Ellie Hannon worked with Bininj artists Graham Rostron, Abel Naborlhborlh, Selone Djandomerr, Ray Mudjandi, Rosie Mudjandi, Aysha Alderson and Nonica Hardy to create the mural's massive paintings.

Hagebols says the artists decided to keep remnants of a previous mural painted on the wall in their design.

“In homage to the previous artist and to keep a significant piece of the Jabiru Bakery as history.”

From there, it took three weeks to complete the whole mural.

“From the preliminary phases of sketching the designs and working with all the artists to come up with draft concepts, including a colour palette
of natural dyes used for pandanus weaving in this region.”

The striking work includes motifs commonly expressed by artists from Kakadu including the namarrkon, or lightning man, yawk yawk, a female water spirit, and namarnkol, the barramundi.

The new Marrawuddi Gallery is set to open its doors in late September.

“It’s an exciting time,” confirms Hagebols.

“Jabiru is well and truly alive.”

INFO | |

Top: The old Kakadu Bakery
Middle: Raylene Djandjul carrying her freshly harvested pandanus, sourced on Mirarr country.
Bottom: Patsy Kelly displaying her sensational marebu (woven mat), spanning 160cm!

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