Mimih Spirits Dancing 1981 bears artist's name, language group, clan, title, catalogue number K645/CR and date on Maningrida Arts & Crafts label on the reverse natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark 86 x 53cm (33 7/8 x 20 7/8in).
PROVENANCE Painted in the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) region, Western Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory Maningrida Arts & Crafts, Northern Territory
Cf. For a related image by the artist, see Mardayin ceremony, c.1978, in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, in K. Munro, (ed), Bardayal 'Lofty' Nadjamerrek AO, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2010, page 58, and J. Ryan, Spirit in Land: Bark paintings from Arnhem Land in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1990, plate 52, page 92.
The painting is a study in human movement; each of the figures strikes a different pose. The animated actions of these mimih figures bears a direct relationship to similar images found in the rock art of the Arnhem Escarpment. Bardayal describes the painting as depicting a Mardayin ceremony. This is a major regional ceremony that brings together people belonging to both moieties of western Arnhem Land society, the Duwa and the Yirridjdja. In fact Bardayal shows both men and women dancing, accompanied by two male musicians, a didjeridu player and a clap-stick player who wear feathered hair adornments. In the ceremony, the participants' bodies are painted in geometric clan designs that relate to particular tracts of land, and to specific ancestors. Bardayal's composition of three rows of dancers with their heads, forearms and lower legs set at angles, and painted white to contrast with the decorated torsos, succinctly suggests the rhythms and motion of the ceremony.
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