Jack Nawilil

Jack Nawilil


Mayali and Rembarrnga artist Kamarrang Jack Nawilil is a senior member of the Balngarra clan, who lives and works at Bolkjdam, an outstation located near Maningrida community in central Arnhem Land. A song man and cultural leader, he works across painting on bark, carved sculpture and ceremonial objects such as mularra (morning star poles), mako (didgeridoo), lorrkkon (hollow logs) and body adornments using feathers, native beeswax and hand-spun bark fibre string. Common subjects of his work include representations of significant spirit beings, such as wyarra (skeleton), wurum (fish-increasing) and namorrodo (profane) spirits, and important ancestors, including the female creator ancestor Ngalkodjek who travelled from Elcho Island in the East.

The narratives represented in Nawilil’s artworks are extremely complex and often antithetical to Western knowledge systems. His artworks reference and manifest multiple places, clans and events that span vast distances and timeframes. To audiences who are not initiated and socialised in bininj (Aboriginal) cultural practices and history, the true and complete meanings of these artworks cannot be fully grasped. His artworks challenge the viewer to grapple with a different way of being in, and understanding, the world.

Nawilil’s work is held in public and private collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. He has exhibited with commercial galleries around Australia and overseas for nearly four decades.

Jack Nawilil, Namorroddo. Paperbark, bush string, natural pigments, beeswax, feathers, 185 x 8 x 8cm. Courtesy the artist and Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory.


Rembarrnga, Mayali



Date of birth





Past Exhibitions


  • 2022
    Spirit in Bark, Koskela Gallery Rosebery
  • 2021
    The Summer Collector’s Show 2022, Everywhen Artspace
  • 2021
    The 66th Blake Prize, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
  • 2020
    Tarnanthi Art Fair, Lot Fourteen, Adelaide SA
  • 2020
    Connected: MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2020
    Maningrida Arts & Culture, Michael Reid, Sydney, NSW
  • 2020
    RESILIENCE: The power of the past today - Maningrida, Aboriginal Signature Estrangin Fine Art, Brussels, BELGUIM
  • 2018
    From Coast to Escarpment: Spirit Worlds of Maningrida, Michael Reid, Sydney, NSW
  • 2016
    Owen Yalandja, Bob Burruwal, Jack Nawilil: New Yawkyawk Spirits and Sculptures, Annandale Gallery, Sydney, Australia
  • 2012
    29th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, Darwin, NT
  • 2012
    First Life - Unwordly Encounters, Chan Contemporary art space, Darwin, NT
  • 2009
    Ochre - A Study in Materiality, Short Street Gallery, Broome, WA
  • 2009
    Maningrida Group Show, Maningrida Arts & Culture Gallery, Darwin, NT
  • 2008
    Palya Art at Mary Place, Mary Place, Sydney, NSW
  • 2006
    Bangu Yilbara: Works from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 2002
    Barks in the spotlight, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 1999
    My Country: Australische Aboriginal Kunst, Brandweer Kazerne, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 1996
    Dreaming: Aboriginal Art from Australia, Galerie Kouwenhoven, Delft, Netherlands
  • 1996
    Maningrida Exhibition, Indigenart, Subiaco, WA
  • 1994
    Gemaltes Land: Kunst der Aborigines aus Arnhem Land Australien, Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany
  • 1994
    Maningrida Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, NSW
  • 1989
    Masterpiece, Fine Art Gallery, Hobart, TAS
  • 1982
    Aboriginal Art at the Top, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT


  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC
  • Aimee Proost private collection, Qld
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Maningrida Collection, Sydney, NSW
  • Walonia Aboriginal Art, Netherlands
  • Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, QLD
  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, NT