Mimih | Mimi | Mimi Spirits

 

Mimih are often depicted on aboriginal bark paintings. Most Mimi are on paintings from Oenpelli in Western Arnhem Land and Crocker Island. The belief in Mimih is thousands of years old. Mimi are on Cave walls and in rock shelters as well as on Bark. In fact some of the oldest cave paintings in Western Arnhem Land are of these figures running and hunting

Mimih spirits are often painted as extremely thin human-like being. They are extremely flexible and agile and small. They are often depicted wearing headdresses and carrying weapons and tools.

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

 

What are Mimih / Mimi

Mimih are supernatural beings that used to live in the rocky country of western Arnhem Land. They are so thin and light that a strong wind could blow them over. They are often referred to as  spirits even though they are of flesh and blood.

Mimi are credited with instructing the first aboriginal people with knowledge. They taught aboriginal people how to survive in the rocky environment of the Arnhem Land plateau. They taught the first aboriginals how to hunt and butcher game and also how to dance, sing and paint. It was the these spirits who turned aboriginals into a civilized people. The song and dance style of western Arnhem Land Aboriginals is still known today as Mimih style.

The people of western Arnhem Land believe that Mimi spirits lived in a social organization similar to Aboriginal people. They believe that their society existed before humans.

Mimih also had supernatural powers. They were able to levitate themselves when painting on cave ceilings. There are numerous legend stories about interactions between Mimi and humans.

The Mimih were fun loving and enjoyed sex and dancing but were also mischevious. They were capable of being misleading and even of kidnapping or killing people. If befriended though they could share their magic. Aboriginal sorcerers who had befriended them often had powers given to him. These sorcerers had gained this mythical knowledge and powers while spending times in Mimi camps.

Closest European mythical being to a Mimi would be the fairy.

 

Mimi in Aboriginal Art

Auction houses tend to label any non-human figure on a bark painting as a Mimih. This is often incorrect as other supernatural aboriginal beings had human-like forms. Good examples are Namarnde Namarrkon and Namorrordo. These spirits have semi-human forms but are completely different creatures.

Mimi are traditionally only depicted in Western Arnhem Land and on Crocker Island art.

 

 

Mimih by the unknown artists

Some of the greatest depictions of these beings are by unknown artists.  In this example, they are obviously dancing. The pure freedom of movement coupled with the almost alien forms I think makes this one of greatest barks.

The oversized heads and slender bodies are right out of a Science Fiction film, painted before that genre even existed,

Great art is not always by a known artist.

Mimih Artists

Djambalula

Djambalula depictions of Mimi spirits are powerful in their simplicity. The faces of the his beings have an otherworldly appearance. Djambalula painted in rock shelters as well as on barks.

January Nanganyari

Nanganyari often depicts the friendly but mischevious side of Mimi. He depicts them waving and appearing as friendly mischevious being.

Jimmy Midjawmidjaw

Midjawmidjaw was a crocker island artist and his Mimih spirits often have impossibly long thin arms.

Paddy Compass Namatbara

Namatbara has some of the most dynamic and otherworldly depictions of Mimi.  He is not shy about depicting their obvious sexuality, Namatbara also painted Maam spirits but these Maam spirits are usually shown with an unnatural number of arms or legs.

Yirawala

Yirawala is the most famous of Arnhemland painters and he often depicts Mimih. They are fluid and graceful but lack the rawness of some other artists.  The long thin bodies do not always suite his majestic rarrk.

Dick Murramurra

Dick Murramurra depicts Mimih hunting. This relates to the story of Mimi being the first beings who taught the aboriginals to hunt.

Spider Namirrki Nabuna

Spider Namirrki painted in rock shelters and on bark. He is often mistaken for a Crocker island artist due to the fluidity of his  figures.

 

His Mimi are often depicted with flowing arms impossibly bending legs and exaggerated genitalia.

Crusoe Kuningbal

Crusoe Kuningbal is one of the few artists to depict Mimih as sculpture. These sculptures were made for sale and not for a ceremony.

Aboriginal sculpture including examples by Kuningbal are collectible in their own right

Mick Kubarrku

Mick Kubarrku both painted and sculpted images of Mimih spirits.

His barks were more traditional but his sculptures just as collectible.

Gwion or Bradshaw figure

These fascinating beings are still believed by some to exist in the rock country of Arnhem Land.  They have secret passageways in the rocks and crevasses which only they can fit into. I am sure there are people from this part of the stone country who have more knowledge about these beings.  I would be happy to hear from you.

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