Magnolia Maymuru as a Not So Repentant Magdalena (After Titian)
Acrylic & mixed media on panel,
36"h x 24"w, Item No. 16703,
Fashion scouts had attempted to recruit beautiful 5’10” tall
Yirrkala-born Maminydjama Maymuru on more than one occasion, however, the
teenager resisted: "I had year 12 and I had to finish my work.
Back home education is actually a big deal. Elders and women have done big
things to get a bilingual education." Yirrkala is a coastal Arnhem Land
community known for its Indigenous artwork, singers and traditional culture.
With a great-grandmother with artwork in the Louvre, a grandfather heading up
the local Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation, and a father from a Yothu
Yindi-affiliated rock/reggae band, Ms Maymuru had grown up surrounded by
creativity. However, she was acutely aware of the lack of Aboriginal
representation in fashion, television, and film; she finally agreed to take up
modelling because she was eager to see young Indigenous girls properly
represented in wider society. She wanted to be a catalyst of social
transformation. She has since become the first Indigenous model to represent
the Northern Territory in Miss World Austrailia. In making the decision
to enter, she thought “ I am a woman just like everybody else”.
The “Penitente Magdalena” is a recurrent theme in Art History
that has inspired numerous masterpieces for its feminine beauty. I have painted
several of my own versions of Mary Magdalene, however, I feel that women should
not have to repent for their passion, their sexuality, their sensuality, for
defending their fellows, and for fighting for what they believe in.
Magnolia Maymuru embodied the idea of a “not-so-repentant-Magdalena”. I’ve used
metallic candy wrappers, “lush, handmade cosmetics” packaging, and a torn
poster from Bali that says “of the Gods”. In the portrait, my Magdalena has
shifted her radiant face to gaze proudly, yet kindly, and unapologetically,
into the eyes of the viewer.