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"Mimu (Water lily)" and "Walbirr-walbirr (Butterfly)" 2012

Wall text

Wall text

Napolean Oui 

Born 1972, Gimuy/Cairns, Yirrganydji, Djabuganydji, Yidinji, Gunggandji Country. Djabugay. Lives and works in Gimuy/Cairns, Yirrganydji, Djabuganydji, Yidinji, Gunggandji Country.

Pronouns: he/him

"Mimu (Water lily)" 2012

"Walbirr-walbirr (Butterfly)" 2012


etchings and aquatint on paper, edition 2/12


Paul Machnik (printer), Studio PM 


Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2012. 

Napolean Oui’s etchings respond to his Djagbugay nganydjin bulmba (Rainforest Country) of Gimuy/Cairns. Mimu (Water lily) and Walbirr-walbirr (Butterfly) follow the visual elements of rainforest shields unique to the region. Oui’s works are symbolic of the responsibility and relationships that the artist holds to Country, inclusive of plants, people, animals, water and sky. 

The motif in both etchings features a boss, which refers to the central feature of rainforest shields. For Oui, the boss acts as an assurance of the authenticity of the design, and the authenticity of the artist. The walbirr-walbirr (butterfly) is an indicator of a healthy environment and ecosystem, a sign of the good health of Country. Mimu (water lily) is a significant food source for insects and support for freshwater lakes, ponds, and shallow water habitats. In depicting significant totems of his Djagbugay nganydjin bulmba, Oui draws attention to the threat to the biodiverse ecosystem that the artist and his kin have cared for since the beginning. As Oui explains, 

My grandparents would tell me, “treat it [water lily] with respect and only take what you need. If you take too much or if you mistreat the water lily, the spirits of the water lily will haunt you.”


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