On this page are short biographies of Arnhem Land artists
whose work is represented by paintings or prints on our Web site.
Note that these artists are deceased,
and mentioning their names aloud, or referring this page to a relative
or member of their community, may cause upset and distress.
The artists are:
Bardyal (Lofty) Nadjamerrek
Bardyal was born some time around 1926 in the stone country of the Mann River region of
western Arnhem Land. He was a Kunwinjku speaker and spent most of his youth on various clan estates
in the region. He was taught to paint rock art by his father. When
a young teenager, he walked 200 kilometres to Maranboy where worked
in a tin mine. This was his first contact with white people.
His early artistic experience was in painting on the walls of rock
shelters in the headwaters of the Liverpool River. His rock paintings
of a kangaroo, a horse with rider, emu and goats still survive.
After a while he moved to Katherine where he was employed as a stockman.
When World War II broke out, Bardyal was forcibly rounded up along
with many others and moved to Mataranka army camp where he was made
to chop wood and load cargo trains. He was aged around sixteen at
the time - when he was also involved in a large number of traditional
After the war, Bardyal went to Oenpelli to work as a buffalo shooter.
He also cut timber and planted market gardens. He was married by then
to Mary and already had three children. They have had a further five
children since then.
He began painting works for sale on bark in 1969 at Oenpelli and
has developed an outstanding reputation first as a painter on bark
and more recently on paper, using traditional ochre pigments.
His X-ray style of painting is strongly linked back to the tradition
of painting on rock and his own experience as a young man. He is particularly
known for paintings of Ngalyod and Yingarna (the Rainbow Serpents) and other mythical beings.
In 1972 Bardyal left Oenpelli and returned to clan lands in western
Arnhem Land and in 1988 he moved to Gamarrwagan where he has lived
Lofty possessed a rich store of mythological knowledge. As a ritually
senior man, he was responsible for Ancestral sites and mythologies
from his own patrilineal clan lands (father's country). For this reason
he was known as Djungay (manager).
His works are held in the National Gallery of Australia, National gallery
of Victoria, Australian Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney) and
numerous other museums and major collections.
He passed away in 2010.
England Bangala (Banggala)
He was born around 1925 in central Arnhem Land and passed
away in 2001. He worked with the Maningrida art centre. His prints and paintings
reflected the high status which he held in the traditional ceremonies
of his community.
His pictorial style combines elements of the west and central Arnhem
Land traditions. The organic forms he represents in his work often
depict the elements of Gunardba women travelling across the land,
creating sacred sites, law and language for the Gunardba people. These
elements now reside in spirit form at sites specific to the An-ngulin
A strong vigorous flow is characterised in Banggalas work with
its graphic boldness. The cross hatching is found within the figures
and the schematic motifs of his work rather than in the background,
as is more common to the art of Arnhem Land. The broad areas of colour,
dotted subdivisions and plain background reflect Banggalas association
with the Rembarrnga. Rembarrnga art is not easily classifiable because
most artists of this group paint in distinctly individual and different
ways. The most likely reason for this divergence is geographical.
The Rembarrnga speaking people own land over a vast area of south-western
and south-central Arnhem Land, some of it inaccessible and therefore
isolated. This has caused each small group to develop their particular
traditions somewhat differently. The art of the group as a whole shares
common themes of water and stone country and spirit figures.
He was active as an artist since 1974 and has been involved in numerous
exhibitions; his works is held in many public and private galleries
David Malangi was born in 1927 and for most of his life
he lived with his extended family at Yathalamara in the Northern Territory.
He passed away in 1999.
He was the head of the Manarrngu clan and one of the
most powerful elders of central Arnhem Land. With the death of clan
leaders who owned adjacent lands, Malangi inherited custodianship
for vast tracts of land on either side of the Goyder River, thus inheriting
the associated responsibilities for caring for sacred sites, recounting
the journeys of both the Djangkawu creation ancestors and of the ancestor
He began painting as a young boy, taught by his father and uncle
to paint on bodies for ceremonies, on hollow logs for burials and
later on stringybark. He was taught to paint the story of his creation
ancestors and the stories that they sang in their ceremonies as well as his totems
the sea eagle, crow, snake and goanna.
Malangi recalled: I saw my father paint dead mens
(bodies) when I was a little boy and I copied.
In 1966, when Australia adopted decimal currency, the central motif
of the original dollar note was a direct representation of the Gunmirringu
story from one of Malangis bark paintings. The artist knew nothing
of this until he saw the note. The Reserve Bank later recognized his
copyright and awarded him compensation and so began the recognition
of Aboriginal copyright.
David Malangi was a prolific and highly individualistic artist whose
work has been sought after by major international collectors since
the 1960s. In style, his bold collection of individual imagery and
shapes on a clear, red ochre or sometimes black background influenced
several other central Arnhem Land painters.
He usually composed his paintings around vertical lines rather than
a central circular image as favoured by most Central Arnhem Land painters,
and used broader, bolder brush marks. His strong, graphic images, often
thickly outlined in white, return to particular themes, always in
differing formations with a high figurative content.
His work is in
numerous collections in Australia and overseas.
Peter was a distinguished Kunwinjku artist from Oenpelli in west Arnhem
Land. He was born in 1930 and passed away in 2001. He painted using
the traditional rarrk cross-hatching technique, or x-ray style,
typical of the Gunbalanya artists of western Arnhem land.
His work often depicted the spirits that have metamorphosed into
rocks at important sites in the artists country. He was renowned
as an artist on bark, and his work also carried over successfully
into the print medium without losing any of its traditional qualities.
Since 1982 he exhibited all over Australia, including in the 1994
Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art' exhibition
at the National Gallery of Victoria; as well as in several exhibitions
in the United States.