Arthur Koo-ekka PAMBEGAN Jr. | Wik-Mungkan people | QLD 1936–2010 | Flying Fox Story Place 2002–03 | Carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments | 15 components: 250 x 900 x 35cm (installed, approx.) | Commissioned 2002 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © The artist

Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr
Flying Fox Story Place 2002

Not currently on display

For the Winchanam ceremonial group, this sculpture tells an important story that teaches respect for the land and its people. The painted wood components represent the minh mal (black flying fox) and the minh wuk (red flying fox) hanging upside down from their tree perches.

The story involves two young brothers, who were undergoing initiation — they sneaked out of their camp one morning without permission and speared many flying foxes dead. The two brothers admitted they had done wrong and were punished for breaking the rules.

The flying foxes then took them up into the sky to the Milky Way, where two black dots now remind Wik-Mungkan people that traditional law was once disobeyed.

An elder of the Wik-Mungkan people, Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr lived in Aurukun, a small Indigenous community on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula. Pambegan grew up in Aurukun at a time when the Presbyterian mission regulated daily life.

He was raised in the boys’ dormitory, separated from his parents, until he was old enough to work, variously, as a pearling diver, timber and canecutter, ringer (cattle drover), yardman and housepainter.

Arthur’s father, Arthur Pambegan Sr, was also a highly respected elder, who taught him traditional knowledge and the carving techniques used in his ceremonial sculptures.