Ngali-Ngalim-Boorroo (for the women) — 25 October to 6 December 2014

 

For this component of Ngali-ngalim-boorroo (For the Women) the two linked exhibitions represent the first year and a half of a difficult and complex project. On the accompanying video, senior women — including Mabel Juli, Shirley Purdie, Phyllis Thomas and Shirley Drill — talk about leading a series of bush trips to different parts of Gija Country to teach their young women knowledge and values they hope will endure. The artists’ ideas, actions and hopes for the project are often checked by reality. Their works are on view at The Cross Art Projects. At SCA Gallery, Shirley Purdie and Kathy Ramsey's remarkable paintings and their accompanying videos represent different generations, the established and emerging.

 

Pedagogy remains an important component of art practice in Warmun today; the famed Warmun Art Movement itself emerged with the ideal of two-way education when Gija elders enlisted the support of the Sisters of St Joseph, the Order Founded by Mary MacKillop. Sister Theresa Morellini OAM (Sister T.) arrived in Warmun in May 1979 as one of the first two teachers at Ngalangangpum School. Sister T. says: 'Two-way was what the elders wanted. They came up with the name to describe the importance of Western way and Gija way'. Another way that knowledge was passed down was through art. She says: 'The old people would paint the Dreamtime (Ngarrangkarni) stories on any bits of scrap to teach the children'. These teachers of lore and culture at Ngalangangpum School became renowned artists including Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Hector Jandanny and George Mung Mung (all deceased). (Veronica Ryan, From Digging Sticks to Writing Sticks. Stories of Kija Women, 2001.)

 

Two-way sharing and learning lie at the heart of Ngali-ngalim-boorroo; painting and digital media not only express beliefs, opinions, stories, feelings and histories, but they capture them for future generations to come. These videos are special commissions for Contemporary Art and Feminism. In a recent triumph the paintings were shown at the Warmun Art Centre Gallery to the acclaim of school children and community before leaving for Sydney. Gija educators emphasise the importance of a culturally appropriate pedagogy that expresses ideas and concepts in specific Gija ways.
 

 

   

Kathy Ramsey, Wurra Wurlul (mermaids), 2014. 150 x 150 cm. Natural ochre and acrylic pigment on linen.

Kathy Ramsey says, 'This is my Dad, Rammey Ramsey’s Country called Warlawoon. This place is along Eba Green Yard, and the black fella name for these cliffs and river is called Munthun. These women live in this place. They are bush women called Wurra Wurlul. Whenever we see these women in our dreams that is the sign that my Dad is coming. Their skin is fair and they have long dark hair …. these women are like mermaids too. There were plenty of them and they didn’t see this man watching them from on top of the cliff. He then went down closer to them. One woman saw him coming towards them. He tried to grab one of them, but they all dived back in the water. But this black fella, he went in after them until he came out with one woman. She bit him all around his arms, but he held on to her really tight and took her to his home. He told her to go and get some water, clean water. She understood him, and she went and she came back. The man said this water is too dirty. He sent her away again and she came back with dirty water again. This was the third time he told her to go and get clean water. The man waited and waited, there was no sign of her anymore. All the other women had taken her back to the river and that was the end'.

Shirley Purdie, Garajbebirri Woolmooj-Woolmoojngarri Yarrurn – When we twitch in our bodies (Jump, Jump), 2014. 150 x 150 cm. Natural ochre and pigment on canvas.

Shirley Purdie says, ‘When we jump-jump you know la garajbe [twitch in our bodies]’. In Gija culture, twitches or spasms in certain muscles in the body are signals. In this painting, the small circles painted on the body are these specific points where family members are felt.  … each body part is associated with a different kinship relationship. For example, if the muscles at your breast ‘jump’, your children might arrive, they might be in danger or sick or they may have died. This relates both to biological relations and to people who are your classificatory family. In the Gija kinship system your skin-name relates every person to every other. The vertical lines radiating out from the body near the head represent the skin groups in Gija society.


 
 

Peggy Patrick, Jimbirla (Spearhead), 2014.

120 x 120 cm, natural ochre and pigment on canvas.

Peggy Patrick, Tharriyarrel (Rainbow) 2014.

120 x 120 cm, natural ochre and pigment on canvas.

     Nancy Nodea, Stones and Houses, 2014.

     120 x 120 cm, natural ochre and pigment on canvas.

   
 

Mary Thomas, Yalamarri (bush potato), 2014. 80 x 60 cm

Mary Thomas says, 'This one, she's digging up is our bush tucker, Yalamarriny (sweet bush potato), from Alice Downs Country. He (the potato) makes a crack in the ground'. 

Mabel Juli, Gelinggenayin, 2012. 140 x 100 cm

This is Gelinggenayin is the name of the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) rainbow. In the Ngarranggarni the rainbow was a man. As he climbed this hill, Gelinggenayin heard a dog barking and turned his head around to see where the dog was. He is still there on that hill, looking for the dog.

 Phyllis Thomas, Booljoonngali /Picaninny Gorge, 2014. 150 x 150 cm

The blue water and the large green shapes in the centre of this work depict beautiful Picaninny Gorge, in Phyllis's country of Purnululu. 

   

 

 

 

Shirley Purdie, Goordbelayinji, 2014. 150 x 50 cm 
Goordbelayinji is a Gija word that is used to describe any place where many have been killed at one time. In this story Shirley speaks about her Father's country. The first part of this work depicts a conflict between two different groups of Aboriginal people before Europeans arrived in the East Kimberley. The central area of the work speaks about the first time that Shirley's family saw white people. They arrived on a wagon, and because of their white skin and the track they left behind in the grass Shirley's father's great-grandfather thought these people were connected to the rainbow serpent. This is why they killed those white people back then. The bottom part of the painting depicts a very sad, and recent, story now known as Mistake Creek. An Aboriginal man from another part of Australia had come to Gija country to work for the Rhatigan family and fallen for some of the married Gija women. After they refused his advances, he lied to Mr Rhatigan and told him that this Gija mob had killed his cow. Wild and mad, this Aboriginal man and Mr Rhatigan rode out to the Gija holiday camp along what is now known as Mistake Creek and began shooting. Nearly everyone died that day and when they finally uncovered the goon goon (traditional cooking pit) it was only kangaroo and echidna inside. The Aboriginal man was killed. In court charges against Mr Rhatigan were dropped due to the fact the Aboriginal man had tricked him.

 

Betty Carrington, Ngarrgooroon Country, 2012. 60 x 80 cm

Betty Carrington, Ngarrgooroon Country, 2014. 80 x 60 cm

Betty Carrington, Ngarrgooroon Country, 2014. 60 x 45 cm

 

About Ngarrgooroon Country Carrington says: 'I’m trying to keep my brother’s (Hector Jandany's) stories alive, so all our kids can learn in the future. My brother walked all over this Country. I walked half of this Country — so I only know half. This is Balangoorr — flat rock country. In the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) Garlooroony, that husband one for Goorlabal, drowned two boys here at Thalyoowooyny — close up to where that gamanggerr grows, like a bamboo for spear. One Thalngarr tree was there — and those two boys hung onto to that tree to save their life, but it was no good. We used to walk here — loading wood, collecting bush tucker, fishing all the way and getting porcupine at the springs'.

 

 

Mary Thomas, Alice Downs old and new homestead, 2014. 90 x 90 cm

Beryline Mung, Turkey near the Billabong for food (Pinkerrpal – Kulumpu Mayimapurru), 80 x 80 cm

Beryline Mung, Gorge (Palakuta Hill) near Texas Downs Station, about 25 miles from Warmun 80 x 80 cm

 

Mary says, 'My grandmother was on that old homestead, and I grew up on that new one'. Mary says the girls and boys had their own private place for swimming. After work all the girls would swim at the spot on the river marked with a circle closest to the homestead, while the boys would swim in the area marked with a circle at the bottom centre of the work.

 

     

Phyllis Thomas, Booljoonngali, 2014. 3 parts, 80 x 240 cm, ochre on linen.

Phyllis Thomas has painted the traditional scarifical on marks that Gija people used to incise on each other for law and ceremonial activities. In Gija this is called Gemerre. She says, 'This is them scars that the old people used to cut across their bodies. Their leg, arm and stomach. This keep 'im safe when going across rivers, so that the Rainbow Serpent doesn't get you'.

   
     

Installation view: Phyllis Thomas, Booljoonngali / Picaninny Gorge, 2014. 150 x 150 cm

The blue water and the large green shapes in the centre depict Picaninny Gorge, a beautiful place Phyllis visited when she walked the country of Purnululu in her youth. The orange circular shapes in the bottom of the work show where the Malngin people walked to Ord River and a hill that looks like a foot with his toes sticking up to the sky. Phyllis says, 'That foot is for the Malngin people' and marks the boundary of their country'.

(Right): Peggy Patrick, Jimbirla (Spearhead), 2014. 120 x 120 cm. This is the jimbirla (spearhead) at Roogoon (Crocodile Hole), and Peggy Patrick, Tharriyarrel (Rainbow), 2014. 120 x 120 cm

This is Tharriyarrel (Rainbow). When the lightning and rain comes, that's our dreaming. That tharriyarrel cuts the rain. This is from my place at Loomoogoo (Pompeys Pillar) near Roogoon (Crocodile Hole).

   

 

Installation view, The Cross Art Projects, 2014 Installation view, The Cross Art Projects, 2014
   
Installation view, Curating Feminism at Sydney College of the Arts Galleries, 2014

Shirley Purdie Video from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo, 2014.

Courtesy Warmun Art Centre

 

Talk on Warmun Two–Way, with Alana Hunt and Anna Crane, 29 November 2014.


Artists
 

Betty Carrington Marayal, was born at Texas Downs to the east of Warmun. She is the youngest and only surviving sibling of renowned Gija teacher and artist Hector Jandany. She has been painting with Warmun Art Centre since it was established in 1998. Her subjects include ngarranggarni — dreaming stories, depictions of dance events and bush animals and food such as the notable cold weather indicator Goonjal — the Kapok Bush.

 

Mabel JuliBardngarri, is usually called Wirringgoon — ‘the Cockatiel’ because she had a little tuft of hair like the cockatiel’s crest when she was a child. She was the 2013 winner of the Kate Challis RAKA Award at Melbourne University's Ian Potter Museum of Art, an annual invitation-only award for Indigenous artists. Judges said her use of natural pigments conveyed the potency of country and the ancient, enduring essence of the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming). Her work demonstrates deep understanding of Gija Traditional Knowledge on many levels. See videos: http://australian-centre.unimelb.edu.au/kate-challis-raka-award

 

Beryline Mung — is an emerging artist but her father was the late George Mung Mung, and her husband is Freddie Timms. Beryline also teaches at the school.

 

Nancy NodeaWarlambal, was born at Texas Downs Station east of Warmun like many of the older pioneering Warmun Artists. Her ochre paintings in subtle colour mixes depicting hills, trees and dreaming places follow the tradition established by her older compatriot Queenie McKenzie. Her two sons Gabriel and Mark are both artists who also work at Warmun Art Centre.

 

Shirley PurdieBirrmarriya is a prominent leader in Warmun community and an incisive cross-cultural communicator. She has been painting with the Warmun Art Centre since its inception in 1998 along with founding elders Queenie McKenzie and Rover Thomas. She is an artist of significance and seniority. Her cultural knowledge and artistic skill complement each other to produce a painting practice that holds great strength — characterised by a bold use of richly textured ochre.  Much of her work explores colonial incursions onto country as well as spirituality and the relationship between Gija conceptions of Ngarranggarni (Dreaming), colonial history as well as Christian religious works (she won the Blake Prize in 2007.) She is a passionate advocate of recording and passing on traditional ecological knowledge for future generations.


Kathy Ramsey — is one of Warmun Art Centre’s most acclaimed and renowned emerging artists and has already been included in numerous group exhibitions across Australia and internationally.

Of her work Kathy says,  'I only just started painting in 2013. I just like to join in and to be sharing a part of my country. My mother (artist Mona Ramsey) and my grandfather (acclaimed artist Timmy Timms), they always told us what this place means, what the names are, those Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) stories. Now, with this painting, I’ll be the one to tell them to my kids. I’m the mother of three sons, but I lost my oldest son in 2008. He was real strong in corroborree, but my other sons, they pick it up too. They went to school in Warmun, and I worked in the childcare centre and cleaning and bits like that. Now I’m painting all the time'.

 

Mary Thomas — lived in the bush with her grandmother learning the life skills necessary for survival. She was one of the leaders and teachers of the younger women in Warmun Art Centre song and dance events until a recent illness left her unable to walk. She is a Gija language teacher and has been a key participant in Gija community healing activities.

 

   
Mabel Juli, still from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo video, 2014.
Nancy Nodea, still from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo video, 2014.  
   
Phyllis Thomas, still from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo video, 2014. Shirley Purdie, still from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo video, 2014.  
   
Betty Carrington, still from Ngali-ngalim-boorroo video, 2014.  Kathy Ramsey, Warmun Studio  

 

 

Links
 
Presented in association with Warmun Art Centre at http://warmunart.com.au/

Ngali-Ngalim-Boorroo (For the Women), extract from the exhibition Curating Feminism, at Sydney College of the Arts Gallery, for Contemporary Art and Feminism > Download pdf

Contemporary Art and Feminism

CAF is a series of symposia and exhibitions in the lead up to the 40th anniversary of International Women’s Day in March 2015, which will also mark the 20th anniversary of the National Women’s Art Exhibition that took place around Australia. CAF is an independent platform for art, scholarship and activism with a steering committee convened by Jo Holder, Jacqueline Millner and Catriona Moore.

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