Crusoe Kurddal (dec)

Crusoe Kurddal (dec)


Crusoe Kurddal, born in 1960, is a renowned Kuninjku sculptor, song-man, dancer and actor.   His work focuses primarily on the mimih spirit. Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land tell of the existence of tall slender spirits which they call Mimih. The name Mimih is well known throughout the top end of the Northern Territory.

Dr Luke Taylor traces the lineage for Kurddal practice: 

“Crusoe (also known as Caruso) Kurddal maintains a sculptural practice that was invented by his father, the famed Kuninjku singer and artist Crusoe Kuningbal. Crusoe Kuningbal was broadly recognised as a virtuoso at singing and dancing stories associated with the mimih spirits, and he developed a way of representing these spirits in sculptural form for use in a Kuninjku trade ceremony called Mamurrng. 

Mamurrng is performed to promote good relations between different language groups and the trade of different items made by the respective groups. Humour is used throughout the ceremony to foster these amicable relations. Kuninjku people still smile with pleasure as they recall Kuningbal’s hilarious performances and evocative singing. The dances performed around the tall, slender mimih sculptures are one of the more humorous elements in the ceremony. Kuninjku language speakers from western Arnhem Land tell many stories about the profane activities of these spirits. Part of the humour surrounding them relates to the mimih’s elongated form – they are said to be so thin that a slight wind can break their necks. They slip through the cracks in the rock country to enter their own lands, which exist inside the rock.

When he died in 1984, his two sons, Crusoe Kurddal and Owen Yalandja, maintained their inherited skills of making mimih. Kurddal, in particular, continued using the red base colour and dotted patterning that his father had used. In the mid-1980s Kurddal was encouraged to make much larger sculptures than those of his father, and there are now monumental mimih in many public collections. From the late 1980s many Kuninjku people began to carve similar figures, but Kuningbal’s two sons lead the way as innovators in these sculptural representations.”1

Kurddal has been exhibiting regularly since the late 1980’s, with his work included in several monumental shows of indigenous art including Australian Indigenous Art Triennial – Cultural Warriors 07 a the National Gallery of Australia, Dream Tracks, Aboriginal art of Arnhem Land at La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art, Kingdom of Bahrain, Crossing Country at Art Gallery of New South Wales and <<rarrk>> at the Bargehouse Gallery, London, UK.

His work can be found in many collections including that of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, the David Betz collection, New York, USA, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC.

Crusoe Kurddal is also an accomplished actor. He played one of the leading roles in Rolf de Heer’s  Ten Canoes (2006), was featured in the movie Australia (2008) and most recently in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

1.  Luke Taylor in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

Mimih (2010)
Ochre on carved wood
190 x 20 x 12cm


In 2006 Kurddal was one of the lead actors in Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer.





Date of birth




Past Exhibitions


  • 2016
    Sentient Lands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 2012
    Dream Catchers, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney
  • 2011
    28th Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT
  • 2010
    Looking at Art, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT
  • 2010
    Maningrida Group Show, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2010
    Best of Maningrida, Annandale Galleries, Sydney, Australia
  • 2009
    Salt and Stone 2: Art Centres of Arnhem Land and Tiwi Islands, Crossarts Projects, Sydney, NSW
  • 2009
    Sculptures, Josh Lilley Fine Art, National Geographic Store, London, UK
  • 2009
    26th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, Darwin, NT
  • 2008
    Maningrida Survey, Short Street Gallery, Broome, WA
  • 2008
    Weaving around the Traps, Chapman & Bailey, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2008
    Palya Art at Mary Place, Mary Place, Sydney, NSW
  • 2007
    Australian Indigenous Art Triennial - Cultural Warriors 07, National Gallery of Australia
  • 2007
    Spirit in Variation, Annandale Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2007
    rarrk, Bargehouse Gallery, London, UK
  • 2007
    Above & Beyond, Caruana & Reid Fine Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2007
    Lorrkon, Spirit Beings, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2006
    Dream Tracks, Aboriginal art of Arnhem Land, La Fontaine Centre of Contemporay Art, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
  • 2006
    Lorrkons and Spirit Figures, Annandale Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2006
    Sculptures from Maningrida, William Mora Galleries, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2005
    rarrk, Rarrk, flowing on from Crossing Country, Annandale Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2005
    22nd National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Arts Awards, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT
  • 2005
    Lorrkons and Spirit Figures, Aboriginal & Pacific Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2004
    Crossing Country - The alchemy of Western Arnhem Land art, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW
  • 2004
    Bark paintings, carvings and fibre works from Maningrida, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2003
    Dreamtime, Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Cankarjev Dom Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 2002
    19th Telstra National & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
  • 2002
    East + West, Annandale Galleries, Sydney, NSW
  • 2001
    Vital fluids, Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra, ACT
  • 2001
    Out of the Mould: An exhibition of first works in bronze and aluminium, Gallery Pizzi, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2001
    Outside in: Research Engagements with Arnhem Land Art, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT
  • 2000
    Biennale Of Sydney 2000, Biennale Of Sydney, various venues at various location, NSW
  • 2000
    Transitions: 17 years of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; touring nationwide: Tandanya, Adelaide, SA; Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra, ACT
  • 1998
    Spirits of the Dreaming, National Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Sydney, NSW
  • 1998
    A material thing : objects from the collection, Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 1997
    Metamorphosis, Gallery Pizzi at Venice Biennale Palazzo Papadopoli, Venice, Italy
  • 1994
    Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
  • 1991
    Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990 From Australia, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK
  • 1990
    Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990 From Australia, Australia Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, Scotland; toured to Swansea and Manchester, UK


  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • David Betz private collection, New York, USA
  • Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise, Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
  • The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, California, USA
  • Museum D'Histoire Naturelle de Lyon, France