Bala Ga Lili. This artwork was generated through a cross-cultural collaboration between Melbourne furniture designer and maker, Damien Wright, and Yolngu man, Bonhula Yunupingu, member of the Gumatj clan of North East Arnhem Land.  Wright and Yunupingu first met in 2010 when Wright was invited by Gumatj elder, Galarrwuy Yunupigu, to establish a furniture craft studio in his homeland community of Gunyangara, situated near the mining town of Nhulunbuy. The workshop would utilise local timbers, routinely bulldozed and burnt in the process of bauxite mining, now being recovered by the Gumatj people for commercial advantage. 

 

In the European schema, Wright was Yunupingu's mentor, Yunupingu Wright's mentee. In the Yolngu kin relationship they established, Yunupingu calls Wright bapa; Wright calls Yunupingu gathu.  Over the past seven years, they have taught each other many things - about creativity, skill and the art of living - in a process Yolngu call bala ga lili, or two-ways learning.

 

In 2016, the pair sat down together in Wright's Northcote studio, with a blank slate, to discuss a mutually constituted aesthetic and philosophical approach to the idea of 'mining for art'.