The Gija artists who founded Warmun Art Centre had a vision of an overarching bilingual cultural centre that united a small community. Mabel Juli, who was encouraged by her close friend and art centre founder Queenie McKenzie, is an expert Gija speaker and her paintings articulate complex Ngarranggarni stories.
Linguist Frances Kofod, who worked with Mabel on the translations, writes, 'Gija culture is not static but has evolved to take account of the changing world. Today painting lies at its heart'.
In a contemporary art gallery context, language that accompanies a visual object is a meaningful art historical bridge between cultures. For this reason, for the first time, a sound installation of Mabel Juli speaking in Gija will be audible inside the gallery. Using Gija as the primary language in a bilingual frame helps with a deeper art historical understanding of each painting’s content.
The exceptional curatorial model of Warmun Art Centre, stresses the centrality of Gija people to the discussion of their art and culture on their own terms. Out of this methodology, the artists have a gained a major international presence, appearing in prestigious biennials and triennials. For non-Gija art lovers, their efforts provides the opportunity to learn about language documentation and revitalisation taking place across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
Mabel Juli’s Jiregewoorrarrem — All Kinds of Birds continues a dialogue initiated by senior Gija, artists, the exhibition and publication Jadagen Warnkan Barnden – Changing Climate in Gija Country (2012-2013, shown at The Cross Art Projects and also at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery), a project that uniquely wove together the three disciplines of art, climate change and linguistics as part of a wider Kimberley project initiated by the former National Climate Change Adaption Research Facility. This exhibition, like its larger predecessor, creates climate language lists and records Gija culture to pass on to younger generations and the world.
|Mabel Juli, Goorrarnda – Warriny, Two Brolgas, 2015. Ochre pigments on canvas, 60 x 60 cm.||Mabel Juli, Derranel – Black Cockatoo, 2014. Ochre pigments on canvas, 60 x 45 cm.||Mabel Juli, Doomboony – Owl, 2014. Ochre and pigments on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.|
|Mabel Juli, Goorgoorji – Warriny, Two Tawny Frog Mouths, 2015. Ochre pigments on canvas, 60 x 60 cm.
||Mabel Juli, Warrarnany – Wedge Tailed Eagle, 2014. Ochre and pigments on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.||Mabel Juli, Wininil – Emu Chicken, 2014. Ochre and pigments on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.|
|Mabel Juli, Marrawayim – Nawarragawoon, Bar Shouldered Doves, 2015. Ochre and pigments on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.
||Mabel Juli, Yalarrngarnany – Jabiru, 2014. Ochre and pigments on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.||Mabel Juli, Untitled, 2014. Ochre pigments on canvas, 60 x 60 cm.|
Mabel Juli, Garrang-garranginy - Australian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae. Also called “Snake Bird” and “Diver Jack”), 2011.
Carving, natural ochre and pigment on ply, 130 x 2 x 90 cm.
|Talks for Mabel Juli's, Jiregewoorrarrem — All Kinds of Birds by Cate Massola, of Ground Up: Community Support Network, and Jaynia Sladek, Ornithology Department, Australian Museum on on 29 July.||Talks for Mabel Juli's, Jiregewoorrarrem — All Kinds of Birds by Cate Massola, of Ground Up: Community Support Network, and Jaynia Sladek, Ornithology Department, Australian Museum on on 29 July.|
Mabel is very outspoken about the recent changes and potential shut down of remote Aboriginal communities proposed by Western Australian premier, Colin Barnett. She has been attending meetings and protests in Warmun against the closures. The Abbott federal government set in place significant reform in the Indigenous Affairs Department in 2014. It offered states and territories a 'one-off' payment to transfer their responsibility of Aboriginal communities to states and territories and also created the 'Indigenous Advancement Strategy' which focuses its funding on five broad program areas: Jobs, Land and Economy, Children and Schooling, Safety and Wellbeing, Culture and Capability.
The 'Indigenous Advancement Strategy' has meant that many Indigenous services and programs in the Warmun community, and other Aboriginal communities in Western Australia, have not received vital funding. This has included Warmun Community Council and the Warmun Art Centre.
The Western Australian government accepted the federal payment and later announced one hundred and fifty communities would be closed down
(http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2014/05/13/government-dramatically-reduce-indigenous-programs; http://www.dpmc.gov.au/indigenous-affairs/about/indigenous-advancement-strategy; http://minister.indigenous.gov.au/media/2015-05-12/government-continues-significant-reformsindigenous-affairs and http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-13/budget-2014- 534-cut-to-indigenous-programs-and-health/5451144).
Mabel Juli brings to the task of advocacy against community closures, her remarkable reputation, storytelling ability and a rich body of paintings and subjects. In 2013 Mabel was awarded the prestigious Kate Challis RAKA Award. She has also been a finalist in the Fleurieu Art Prize for landscape painting, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards.
Mabel is an expert Gija speaker. As a senior custodian of Darrajayin Country, now largely covered by Springvale Station, her paintings are evidence of her encyclopedic knowledge of the cultural, ecological and historical currents that traverse this Country. Early colonial encounters and highly complex Ngarranggarni stories feature in her work. As Mabel says, 'I started painting when the old girl [Queenie McKenzie] was here — she was the one who taught me to paint'. She is renowned for her refined black and white depiction of Garnkiny doo Wardel (Moon and Star), an important Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) story that explores forbidden love, kinship and the origins of our mortality. Mabel Juli was one of the leaders of Ngali-Ngalim-Boorroo / For the Women, (2014) at Sydney College of hte Arts and The Cross Art Projects for Contemporary Art and Feminism.
Mabel – Bardngarri, is usually called Wirringgoon – ‘the Cockatiel’ because she had a little tuft of hair like the cockatiel’s crest when she was a child. Older sister of Rusty Peters, she was born at Six Mile on Moolabulla Station just south of Springvale Station where she spent most of her early life. Following the introduction of equal wages that brought an end to the station era, Mabel settled in Warmun and began painting.
Warmun Standing Together Against Community Closures, No consent! April 2015.
Community closures is a really serious issue. The Western Australian State Government threatens to close 150 remote communities. Closing communities is supposed to be about economics – providing power and water and education. Where would people go? Towns are already overcrowded. The government refuses to give information and works to divide communities.
Kimberley Land Council on threats to communities: www.klc.org.au
KLC Newsletter April 2015, Special Issue – community Closures > Download pdf
Cate Massola and Ground Up: Community Support Network
Cate has helped co-ordinate Warmun Art Centre Gallery since 2010. She worked with Mabel Juli on this special project. Cate is just about to submit her PhD at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. Her research focuses on informal learning and creative practice in the Warmun Community. She is a Director of 'Ground Up', a charitable organisation that aims to deliver services to support the well-being of Gija and other Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley region.
The government’s 'Indigenous Advancement Strategy' has meant that many Indigenous services and programs in the Warmun community, and other Aboriginal communities in Western Australia, have not received vital funding. This has included Warmun Community Council and the Warmun Art Centre.
As a consequence, the Warmun Community Council and the Warmun Art Centre have had to look elsewhere for financial support. The organisation Ground Up, a registered charity, is providing independent financial assistance for Indigenous led projects in Warmun.
Cate Massola, of Ground Up: Community Support Network launches the catalogue Mabel Juli, Jiregewoorrarrem — All kinds of birds > Download pdf
Wet Time, Cold time, Hot Time: Changing Climate in Gija Country at Warmun Art Centre
Warmun Art Centre is showing concurrently a version of Wet Time, Cold time, Hot Time: Changing Climate in Gija Country, seen previously at the Cross Arts Projects and Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. Jadagen Warnkan Barnden is a detailed and intimate account of Gija knowledge of seasonal and climatic change through painting, story and language. This exhibition and bi-lingual publication seek to strengthen and pass on Gija ways of knowing to younger generations within our own community and to people beyond.
At the end of July, Warmun Art Centre hosted a community event, with a special induction to the exhibition by the artists involved (including Mabel Juli), for students from Purnululu Community School as part of the art centre's weekly language class.
Opening Speakers Cate Massola and Jaynia Sladek at Ornithology Collection, Australian Museum. Alana Hunt, Anna Crane, Hayley Megan French at Warmun Art Centre, Francis Kofod, Andrew Fisher, Jasmin Stephens.
Warmun Art Centre http://warmunart.com.au/
Mabel Juli’s life on cattle stations here: https://open.abc.net.au/projects/i-am-an-artist-i-come-from-the-bush-49yr8rl/contributions/mabel-and-the-wild-west-25uv5sf
Mabel Juli digging for ochre here: https://open.abc.net.au/posts/digging-for-ochre-with-mabel-juli-34xu8bj Ngali-Ngalim-Boorroo/
For the Women, 2014, at http://crossart.com.au/images/pdfs/WarmunPagesFromCuratingFeminism.pdf
Jadagen, Warnkan, Barnden, 2013, digital catalogue at http://crossart.com.au/images/stories/exhibitions/xap76ChangingClimate/seasons_PRINT.pdf