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Merrepen Arts

Mermaids appear in many of the works at Merrepen Arts centre in Nauiyu (Daly River), 220 km south of Darwin.

Walk into the centre and ask Ngeni’g Wummiri artist Kieren Karritpul about their appearance in his award-winning textiles, and he’s happy to talk about their significance.

“It’s a really important totem to the people from this region. There are many Dreamtime stories about the mermaids here in the billabongs and rivers.

Kieran Karritpul“I was told all these stories about mermaids from my old people.”

It’s this kind of insight visitors to Merrepen Arts Centre are in for when they make the scenic two and a half hour drive from Darwin – where experiencing the landscape, being on country, and connecting with local artists is the ideal way to learn.

With over 130 artists working in the mediums of painting, print making and fabrics, silk painting, weaving and ceramics, Merrepen is known for it’s evolving, contemporary representations of imagery from the surrounds.

Merrepen Arts CEO Cathy Laudenbach says 2021 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) finalist Phillip Wilson is a great example of this.

“Phillip, a local artist with us, has decided to diversify into hand drawn ink and paper, so every mark you see in his works, like the barramundi, are hand drawn.”

Laudenbach explains that what you see as you drive through the landscape, is reflected in the creativity you encounter as you walk into Merrepen Arts.

“There’s about 150 birds in this area, many of them you’re unlikely to see elsewhere like the brolga, and there’s crocodiles, king brown snakes and wallabies – you never know what you’re going to come across. You see all of this and more in the art.”

The connection between country, culture and art is something Karritpul says he is always happy to share with those who come through Merrepen’s door, and visitors are invariably amazed by what they learn.

“They love talking to us, the artists, learning about the art, and the land from us. We welcome all people to come visit us here.”


Thumbnail and top: Kieren Karritpul, 'Mermaid Fabric', Daly River, 2021
Header: Phillip Wilson, 'Barramundi', 2021, line drawing with ink on paper

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