Gaypalani Wanambi grew up in a family of accomplished artists, led by her father, the famous artist Mr Wanambi. Together they created art in their family home, often working through the night on large poles and barks. Wanambi assisted her father with his art, occasionally grinding ochre pigments for his renditions of thousands of tiny fish.
Before his sudden death in 2022, Mr Wanambi expanded his artistic practice, reaching into digital production and engravings on found metal items. Mr. Wanambi worked within the Found movement, which sees reclaimed industrial materials used by artists living in the north-east Arnhem Land region. With her father’s guidance, Gaypalani Wanambi began creating work that aligned with the Found movements experimental illustration of the Yolŋu cultural worldview.
In recent years Yolŋu artists from Yirrkala have salvaged and repurposed worn-out road signs in ways never seen in their Indigenous community. These once shot at, burned, and corroded road signs now find new life at the hands of Gaypalani Wanambi, and her Yolŋu contemporaries. The instructions these signs once proclaimed have lost their power, much like the lustre of their once-shiny reflective surfaces. In the artistry of Gaypalani Wanambi, what was once aged and discarded is rejuvenated and born anew.
Following cultural protocol, Gaypalani Wanambi avoids using her father’s designs. Instead, the artist explores original themes, such as the epic song poetry relating to the journeys of Wuyal. and the life cycles of bees, honey, and stringybark blossom found in the Marrakulu homeland of Gurka’wuy, NT.
Gaypalani Wanambi was recently announced as a Finalist in the 2023 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), the longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art award and richest art award in the country.
Gaypalani Wanambi works at Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, an Indigenous community directed art centre in Northeast Arnhem Land approximately 700km east of Darwin.