Mick Kubarrku Oenpelli Artist

Mick Kubarrku learned to paint watching his father, Ngindjalakku. He created paintings for sacred Arnhem Land ceremonies on Rock shelters. Later he moved away from cave painting started selling bark paintings at Maningrida in the northern territory. The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their bark painting is by Mick Kubarrku by comparing examples of his work.

If you have a Mick Kubarrku bark painting to sell please contact me. If you want to know what your bark painting is worth to me please feel free to send me a Jpeg. I would love to see it.

Style and Subject

His style is semi-traditional with many of his paintings similar to those found in rock shelters.

The main difference is that Kubarrku used more crosshatching (Rarrk) than in earlier Oenpelli rock art. This is no doubt an influence from his time spent in Maningrida where cross-hatching is popular. He produced figurative work, with a distinctive space around his depictions of spirits and totemic animals. Other distinctive features of many of his works include that his subjects have a white face covered with spots. The limbs of his spirit figures have non-wavy limbs with strong angled joints. He often omits eyes or other facial features. he probably learned his cross-hatching technique from Yirrwala.

Many of his later works on bark are very large some up to 1.3 meters long. He uses a combination of rarrk designs associated with the Mardayin ceremony and Oenpelli figures and spirits. Mick also did a few sculptures of Mimih spirits and painted some hollow log bone receptacles.

Amongst his works were spirit beings from Arnhem Land. These include the Rainbow Serpent, the lightning spirit and Kodjok Bamdjelk, the pandanus spirit. He also paints namorroddo, yawk yawk and Mimih spirits. It is these paintings of spirits that are most popular with collectors.

He also painted fish, spirit kangaroo’s echidna and Namanjwarre (crocodile) and lambalk (sugar glider).



Mick was born in 1924 at Kukabarnka in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory Australia and was of the Kunwinjku people. He began painting at Oenpelli (northern Territory) shortly after the Second World War before moving to Maningrida in 1957. In Mandigrida he and David Milaybuma became the first regular commercial painters. His representations of malevolent spirit beings and ancestral figures resonate with power. They reflect a direct connection to the ancient tradition of Oenpelli painting on rock surfaces, a tradition that has since ceased.

It wasn’t until 1995, that Mick had his artistic vision recognized by the European world. His first exhibition called Rainbow, sugar bag and the moon was at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. 

Mick along with Nabarrayal and Nguleingulie was one of the last of a generation of Arnhem Land painters who could interpret images in rock galleries.

Kubarrku is sometimes spelled Kuparrku Kuburkuku or Kuparkku

References and Extra Reading

Keepers of the secrets: Aboriginal art from Arnhemland

Crossing Country: The Alchemy of Western Arnhemland art

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Western Arnhem land Artists and Artworks

Mick Kubarrku bark painting Images

The following bark paintings are not a complete list of works but give a good feel for the variety and style of this artist

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