Below are biographical notes about Aboriginal artists
from the Central and East Kimberley, but not including Warmun
Artists, who have a separate page of entries. These artists
are all represented by paintings or prints on our Web site:
Lily Karedada lives at Kalumburu in the far north of the
Kimberley. She was born around 1935 on her father's country
around the Prince Regent River, called Woomban-goo-wan-gorr.
Both her parents led a traditional life and were Wunambal
language speakers. She belongs to the Jirrengger (owlet
nightjar bird) moiety and her specific totems are the
turkey, possum and white cockatoo.
Lily's "bush" name is Mindindil, which means "bubbles".
This was given to her a few hours after her birth. It
refers to an event when her father looked into the water
of a spring and saw bubbles rising. He announced "Ah!
What this one here, he come out bubble? Ah! Might be kid!".
As a baby, she was carried in a bark coolamon, similar to those which
she still makes today. She grew up eating bush tucker such as
kangaroo, yams, wild honey, fish and goannas. Lily's father
passed way while she was quite young.
When she reached her teenage years, her mother took their family
to country called Giboolday on the Mitchell Plateau. There she met
and married Jack Karedada, and together they have had ten children.
Lily and Jack left the bush and moved to Kalumburu during World War
II where she helped the nuns at the Mission to plant mango and coconut
trees. Lily and Jack both live in Kalumburu where they paint Wandjina
images and images of bush food.
Aboriginal artists from Kalumburu, including Lily and Jack and other
members of the Karedada family, continue to use traditional ochre
pigments that are gathered from the creek beds, and use glue from
particular trees as binder.
Judith Ryan and Kim Akerman, in the definitive book on Kimberley
art "Images of Power", have described Lily's style
as follows: "Lily specialises in representations of Wandjina
executed in a refined style, full of subtle tonal variations.
Sometimes the Wandjina is shown emerging from a veil of dots
(rain) which also inundate his body. Both the outlines and the
dotting are far more precise than the vigorous gestural marks
of sister-in-law Roslyn Karedada. A dotted ground is also characteristic
of Lily's depiction of totemic species and the natural features
of her country."
Roslyn (Rosie) Karedada was born in Kalumburu in the north Kimberley
in 1927. She is a senior artist noted for her depiction of Wandjina
figures and has exhibited widely and is represented in most major
collections in Australia. She is married to Louis Karedada, the brother
of Jack, another well known artist from the same community.
Her memories of childhood are of growing up in a rigid Benedictine
mission that was established in Kalumburu in 1907. The mission
tried to enforce an assimilationist Christian message at odds
with Aboriginal religion. Rosie clearly remembers the conditions
of mission rule and can recall her time spent digging, planting
mango trees and irrigating the mission gardens with water carried
on her back from the creek. Boys and girls were made to sleep
separately away from their parents in segregated dormitories,
a deliberate disruption of the family and of parental teaching.
Regular visits to cave sites for instruction, family storytelling
and food gathering sessions, previously integral to Wunambal
education, were all supplanted by compulsory work, adherence
to discipline and religious control.
Kevin was born at Wyndham in 1954. His father Laurie is a senior
Kwini Elder. Kevin has spent most of his life at Kalumburu community
on the far north Kimberley coast. While at school in Kalumburu,
Kevin began his artistic career making artifacts and bark paintings.
He is now an established artist with a style based on the rock
art images of the region. Kevin's paintings feature the Wallarwhroo,
a Wandjina-type figure which brings luck to people for hunting
or fishing, and the Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) figures called Allarwhroo
that accompany the Wallarwhroo.
As well as working as an artist, Kevin manages the Radio Station
in Kalumburu and is the senior presenter. He is also a musician who
plays guitar and sings in the Kalumburu Sunset Band.
Henry Wambini was born sometime around 1934 at Tickelara about
45 kilometres south of Turkey Creek in the east Kimberley. He
has passed away recently (February 2003). His skin name was
Jawalyi. Wambini is a name belonging to part of the Bungle Bungles.
His other bush name, Nilmayirriny, is from the dreaming for
a type of yam found growing in black soil and refers to the
cracks made in the black soil by the yam in the dry time.
Today Tickelara is part of the larger Mabel Downs Station and
the Turkey Creek Community lives on an excision on that station
At the time of Henry's birth there were several smaller stations
at Hann Spring, the Bungle Bungles, and at Tickelara as well
as a Post Office and Police Station at Turkey Creek. It was
a time not long after contact with Europeans when most of the
population of the East Kimberley had been interned in government
stations like Violet Valley and Moolaboola or forced into a
type of bonded labour for shirts, trousers, rations and some
protection from massacre on the other cattle stations.
Henry was the second of five children. His father's own country
is from Tickelara right through to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu)
and his mother's country is west from there to Hann Spring.
When he was young he travelled extensively by foot with his
parents in their country. When Henry was young he worked at
Tickelara as a stockman. He worked there for some time but left
when he had an argument over horses with the boss. He walked
away across country and went on to Bow River where he worked
for some years, married and had three children.
After living a long time at Bow River Henry was found to have
leprosy and went to the leprosarium at. Derby where he stayed
for about four years. His wife was unfaithful to him and when
he came back he said he didn't want to live with her any more.
Henry says this is unusual for a man: it is more common for
the woman to leave the man. He then did contract stock work
on various stations in the area. He was visiting Halls Creek
when he was picked up by the doctors and taken back to the leprosarium
in Derby. When he was discharged he did not want to leave and
stayed there for a number of years doing handyman work. He saved
money and bought a car and came on a holiday to Halls Creek
and Wyndham, When he got back to Derby he had an argument with
his boss and left, travelling back to Wyndham where he stayed
and worked for a long time.
By this time many Kija people were living at the Wyndham reserve
where Jack Britten was then the chairman. Then the school was
started at Turkey Creek and many of the people from the Wyndham
Reserve moved back there. Henry went too and helped cut posts
for the school bough shed and carted sand for the building.
He shared a house for a long time with Hector Jandany and after
Jack Britten injured his leg badly in a car accident in 1990
he drove the Frog Hollow community vehicle for him. He continued
to live at Frog Hollow, south of Turkey Creek, until in 2002
he and Jack returned to Warmun.
Henry started painting on canvas in the 1990s because his countrymen
were also doing this. He had previously been painting for the
local school's language program on small boards, so he found
the move to painting on canvas quite easy.
All traditional people in the area have been involved in painting
for ceremonies on bodies and boards and if they have not painted
in caves themselves they have seen the paintings in their sacred
places. Many of the song cycles in the Turkey Creek area are
about country, as are most of the paintings done by the people
in more recent times. Stock work, while poorly paid and dangerous,
allowed people to remain and travel in their own country and
to continue with their ceremonial life. The techniques of collecting
and grinding the ochre and gathering and preparing the vegetable
gums used would be known by all people of the artist's age and
to Page 2 of Kimberley Artists