Erin Currier

Preparatory Magnolia Maymuru as a Not So Repentant Magdalena (After Titian)

Mixed media on paper, Image: 11"h x 8"w, framed: 16"h x 12.5"w, Item No. 16706,

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.

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