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Born:cc.1940 – 23 June 2012
Country: Gamargowan, Manmoyi, western Arnhem Land NT Spring Peake (Kakadu), Nabarung
Kodjok (Kalarriya Jimmy) was born around 1940 at Kukadjdjerre in the stone country of western Arnhem Land. As a child Kodjok camped with his family in the sandstone shelters of his clan estate and at Injalak Hill, which is situated across the lagoon from Injalak Art Centre. As a young man Kodjok contracted leprosy that affected his hands and feet.
He is a member of the Wurrban clan whose estate is situated in the upper reaches of the Cadell River. Kodjok was raised by ‘Nipper’ Kapirigi, a Gundjeihmi man of the Badmardi clan whose traditional estate was far to the west in the Deaf Adder Creek Valley, now a restricted part of the Kakadu National Park. Kodjok accompanied Kapirigi when he was engaged in various jobs and took part in social and ritual obligations throughout the Alligator River and Pine Creek-Katherine region.
After the Second World War, Kodjok and Kapirigi worked alongside Billy Miargu, ‘Old’ Nabandjole and George Namingum shooting buffalo in the Nourlangie, Deaf Adder Creek and Jim Jim area for Tom Cole.
Due to his association and travels to many parts of the great Arnhem plateau, Kodjok had a sound knowledge of clan territories, sites of significance and associated traditions. Kodjok used to reside at various outstations according to season, family and ritual obligation. They include Manmoyi or Gamargowan on the Mann River in west Arnhem Land and Spring Peake in Kakadu National Park.
Kodjok was considered one of the most important Djungkay (ceremonial leaders) in western Arnhem Land and no major ritual could occur without his participation and advice. As Djungkay he conducted hundreds of youths into regional initiation ceremonies, which constitute the major rites of passage for Indigenous men.
Kodjok displayed a great energy and zest for living and art and created paintings of great strength and deep spirituality late into his life. Bold vigorous marks were a hallmark of his paintings, unique amongst stone country artists. Kodjok has been included in numerous survey exhibitions and is represented in public and private collections nationally. In 1982 one of Kodjok’s images was used on the Australian 65c stamp.
As a peer of the late Bardayal Nadjamerrek AO (dec), Kodjok painted alongside him on the Mok Clan estate and also assisted Bardayal in surveys and mapping of clan estates. Kodjok was regularly sought after by anthropologists, linguists and ecologists and worked extensively with Kakadu National Parks up until his death.
Kodjok Namarnyilk passed away at the Darwin Hospital surrounded by friends and family in June 2012.
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Museum of Contemporary Art, South Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne