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Artist BiographiesBiographies of Kimberley Artists

Gwion


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


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!".

Lily Karedada at Kalumburu

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 Karedada

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 Waina

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

Language: Kija
Sub-section: Joongoora

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 background.

Go to Page 2 of Kimberley Artists

 

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