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Thompson Yulidjirri: Brolga with Eggs

The Artist

Thompson Yulidjirri was born in 1930 and raised on Croker Island by the artist Paddy Compass Namatbara, who adopted Yulidjirri after his parent's death at a young age. After an attack by Japanese planes during World War II, Yulidjirri and Namatbara moved to the coast of the Arafura Sea for safety, where he grew up in north east Arnhem Land. Yulidjirri worked at a saw mill in Murgenella as a teen and on the barge that dropped supplies to communities along the coast from Darwin.

In early 1990s, Yulidjirri came to Injalak Arts to paint, and eventually began teaching and mentoring the young men around him. While he would paint, he would tell select young men around him the stories he was painting and teach them his techniques. This was significant because the young men that Yulidjirri imparted his knowledge to had no close blood relation to him or his country and these men later went on to be the primary art producers at the centre today. Yulidjirri would finish a piece, bring it to Injalak, and many of his fellow artists would gather around to hear him discuss its meaning. Many visitors come to tour Injalak Hill, an ancient rock art site nearby, and Yulidjirri served as one of the original guides. He passed on much of his knowledge and understanding of the imagery on the rock walls to the newer generation of guides so that the stories could be preserved and remembered.

Brolga with eggs by Thompson Yuidjirri

The Work of Art

Brolga with eggs  by  Thompson Yulidjirri  is the only work that represents the artist in the University of Canberra Art Collection. It was painted using ochre onto a bark background in 1989 and depicts a brolga eating berries near a clutch of eggs.  Toward the top of the painting are two negative hand-prints blown onto the bark.

The brolga (Antigone rubicunda), formerly known as the native companion, is a bird in the crane family. It has also been given the name Australian crane, a term coined in 1865 by well-known ornithologist John Gould in his Birds of Australia.

The brolga is a common, gregarious wetland bird species of tropical and south-eastern Australia and New Guinea. It is a tall, upright bird with a small head, long beak, slender neck, and long legs. Its plumage is mainly grey, with black wing tips, and it has an orange-red band of colour on its head. The brolga's courting dance is similar to that of other cranes, and is well recognized by Australians. The nest is built of wetland vegetation, either on an elevated piece of land, or floating on shallow water in marshland, and usually two eggs are laid. Incubation takes 32 days and the newly hatched young are precocial. The adult diet is omnivorous and includes plant matter, invertebrates, and small vertebrates.

Brolga