Ruth Lulwarriwuy was born at the Yirrkala Mission in 1952. She is the daughter of Mowarra and she comes from a large family of artists. She came to Elcho Island when she was 18 and started her family. Her grandmother taught her basket making skills: how to collect the pandanus, the process for stripping and dying it and the different weaving techniques. She still regularly collects pandanus and natural dyes from the bush around Galiwin’ku with her sisters, including renowned fibre artist Mavis Warngilna Ganambarr. She has three sons who are all artists and actively keeping traditional Yolngu culture alive.
Lulwarriwuy has been making pandanus mats for many years and has a signature style and range of colours. With the encouragement of her sister Mavis and Arts Development Officer Sean Smith, she started to depict her woven mats on canvas with acrylic paint. She had never painted before and says at first she was ‘a bit shaky’ and wondered if she should. Now she greatly enjoys painting. In 2011 she painted the exterior of the Galiwin’ku Motel with birds and dogs as well as paintings of her weavings.
Sean Smith also encouraged her to do her first reduction wood block prints. These, along with her first body of paintings, were selected for the exhibition Ngathilingu Dhawu Yuta Dhawu — Old Stories New Stories from Elcho Island, at Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne in September 2010. Lulwarriwuy has never travelled further than Darwin and was very excited that her first paintings and prints were exhibited in Melbourne.
Yirritja and Dhuwa Dogs by Ruth Lulwarriwuy
Acrylic on canvas
Dhuwa and Yirritja Dogs by Ruth Lulwarriwuy
Acrylic on linen, 71 x 60cm