Dates: Saturday 20 June to 1 August 2020
Conversation: Angelina Karadada Boona and Betty Bundamurra from Kira Kiro Artists in Kalumburu
with Emilia Galatis, co-curator, Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley, Art Gallery WA, 2019
Curators: Angelina Karadada Boona, Kira Kiro Artists, Leana Collier, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts & Jo Holder, The Cross Art projects
Banner images: Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging I-IV, 2020, white gum sap and charcoal on paper, each image 37.8 x 29 cm.
Betty Bundamurra, My Ancestors, 2020
As I walk along, along the seashore
I think of my ancestors who lived and survived on this great land
Hear voices rumbling, echoing through the tree tops, valley, river and sea
The presence of my ancestors are in the fire camp-light year after year.
As evening falls the spirits of my ancestors call, singing songs and whispering in my ears
“Go back to the ways of your ancestors and learn the language, sing and dance and learn how to survive on this great land.”
Part 1: Connected to the Land
The exhibition Connected to the Land pays tribute to three senior women artists; Betty Bundamurra and the late Mary Punchi Clement and Mary Teresa Taylor, presenting work selected by their colleague, curator and artist Angelina Karadada Boona. The works originate from a small tin shed; an art centre they call Kira Kiro Artists in Kalumburu, an isolated settlement in north-east Kimberley.
Their art is sustained by the rock art tradition; the Drysdale River catchment has one of the earliest and securely dated sites for Aboriginal occupation at 50,000 years ago. Highlighted in the paintings are Wandjina and older Kira Kiro (in Ngarinyin, Wunumba; and Worrora languages Gwion Gwion) figures and secular (but related) themes of totemic animals, sea-life and seasonal flora notably bush foods such as yam, spirits of honey and bush fruit and medicinal plants. Nothing is superfluous.
The artists’ styles are distinctive: Betty Bundamurra paints bold Kira Kiro dancers or hunters each with a unique personality; Mary Punchi Clement is a colourist whose richly hued palette and layered or patterned brush marks show elegant travelling Kira Kiro, their feet never touching the ground or delight in the patterns of the land.
Mary Taylor’s luminous paintings recall a more recent bitter sweet past: her joyous journeys to her husband’s country and a special place called Omari on the Berkley River. Bitter memories include the troubled Oombulgurri Mission (now abandoned) near the site of the Forrest River Massacre of 1926, her home until her husband’s death in 2005. Taylor’s parents told her of the massacre. She speaks of a stone cairn memorial and cross made of water piping built in August 1927 on a hill overlooking the mission and floodplains of Oombulgurri - ‘... there you hear dogs singing out, babies crying. … Policemen shooting them. Olden days’ time.’ (Interview, 2015.)
Angelina Karadada slowly reveals ethereal Wandjina emerging from natural ochres; prized onmal (white) and, in this series, goorin (white gum sap) and charcoal gathered locally, just as the cloud shaped Wandjina manifest their presence. The most recent works by Betty Bundamurra and Angelina Karadada mark the succession from artist-to-artist as Kira Kiro Artists senior artsworker.
The artists’ tender, theoretically informed work sits at the intersection of raw colonial and post-colonial histories. The majestic sweep of subjects and use of materials transforms their paintings of lands and paths crossed by ancestral beings and the signs and customary objects of another time and place into something boldly contemporary. The artists know the significance of their work. Betty Bundamurra, also a poet and storyteller with the instinct of an archivist, writes the story for each art work by hand and sends the texts to Waringarri Arts for cataloguing. In considering an exhibition title, Betty Bundamurra adapted Mary Punchi Clement’s earlier artwork title, “A way of life connected to the environment” in the Australian National Gallery collection.
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging I, 2020, white gum sap and ochre on paper, 37.8 x 29 cm (K02057-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging II, 2020, white gum sap and ochre on paper, 37.8 x 29 cm (K02056-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging III, 2020, white gum sap and charcoal on paper, 37.8 x 29 cm (K02055-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging IV, 2020, white gum sap and charcoal on paper, 37.8 x 29 cm (K02058-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging, 2020, white gum sap and ochre on canvas, 100.3 x 80.3 cm (K02217-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging, 2020, white gum sap and ochre on paper, 75.5 x 57 cm (K02220-20)
Angelina Karadada Boona, Wandjina Emerging, 2020, white gum sap and ochre on paper, 75.5 x 57 cm (K02221-20)
Betty Bundamurra, Kira Kiro Happy Spirits, 2018, natural ochre and pigments on canvas, 60 x 60 cm (K00703-18)
Betty Bundamurra, Untitled, 2019, natural ochre and pigment on canvas, 45 x 45 cm (K01913-19)
Betty Bundamurra, Hunters, 2011, natural ochre and pigments on paper, 28 x 38 cm (K110662)
Betty Bundamurra, Wandjina, Gwion and Tools, 2010, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm K100428)
Betty Bundamurra, Traditional Tools, 2015, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K00159-15)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Sea Totems, 2009, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K090138)
Part 2: My Ancestors
Betty Bundamurra: “I think of my ancestors who lived and survived on this great land / Hear voices rumbling, echoing”.
Surrounding the “tree tops, valley, river and sea” are low sandstone formations that house the environmental archive of Lalai (The Dreaming). Here is the parallel time dimension in which plants, animals and landscape were created and where laws governing human behaviour began. Mulberry, red or black coloured shadows signal the presence of Kira Kiro: finely painted human-like figures in elaborate dress and a rich range of artefacts and ornaments (dating back to 12,000 years). Kira Kiro co-exist with and are guardians and assistants of the powerful Wandjina, more recent figures dating to the last 4000 years. Wandjina are Creator Beings associated with the Creator Snake (Ungud) and can be repainted to ensure annual renewal of the seasonal cycle and the associated periods of natural fertility created by monsoonal rains. Each Wandjina has a name, a moiety and a set of totemic symbols from which each clan is directly descended. (Vinnicombe, 1992.) Wandjina take the shapes of cumulus storm clouds and are painted in red, yellow and black pigments on a white background: red for blood and white for water. They stand frontal, solid, head-and-shoulder or full length and stand or lay across a rock face.
Wandjina, the unique stars in the grand stone and rock art galleries of East Kimberley, have astonished explorers and scholars since 1837 as “art produced elsewhere” (by artists from Asia, Moors, Hindus, prophets, or outer-space guest workers) until a century later the anthropologist A.P. Elkin deemed them painted by Aboriginal people; a superb case of cultivated blindness or "hidden in plain sight". (Crawford, 1968.) Wandjina artists have, however, appeared in ethnographic museum exhibitions since the 1925 Exhibition of World Cultures at the Vatican in Rome (Kalumburu being a Spanish Benedictine mission). Most breathtakingly, giant Wandjina with halo-like headdresses, large round eyes and mouthless faces (resembling owls) appeared for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (designer Donny Woolagoodja.)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Wandjinas, 2009, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K090025)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Kira Kira, 2011, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 28 x 38 cm (K110668)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Untitled, 2019, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 38 x 28 cm (K02002-19)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Jalaja, 2011, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 28 x 38 cm (K110665)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Jalaja, 2011, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 28 x 38 cm (K110666)
Mary Muljay Punchi Clement, Yulu (Flowers), 2012, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 28.5 x 38 cm (K121064)
Part 3: Emerging
The Kimberley slowly emerged as a force in contemporary art with exhibitions in Perth in the 1970s organised by Mary Macha working for the Aboriginal Arts Board and the first serious institutional exhibition Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, was held in 1993. (Judith Ryan and Kim Akerman, National Gallery of Victoria). Curator, Judith Ryan argued that the art sought to be a visual 'voice' which reinforces the prerogative of Aboriginal land rights.
Kalumburu’s isolation and lack of an art studio, however, left it as a footnote in this orchestration of the Kimberley art schools. Astute champion, Mary Macha, focused on quality of materials and reputations including Angelina Karadada’s parents Lily Karadada and Jack Karadada, celebrated for their depictions of Wandjinas. (Ryan and Ackerman, 1993.) Former Kira Karo artworker Philippa Jahn argues, following Marcia Langton, that at Kalumburu, “rather than a cultural genocide, cultural praxis was transformed.” (Jahn, p171.)
A small group of women, Betty Bundamurra and the late Mary Punchi Clement and Mrs. Taylor with Gwen Clarke and Mercy Payrrmurra Fredericks, were at the heart of creating the art centre in 2009. They persisted wanting to teach the story that is in the Land and share their knowledge about this lifeworld. Here languages are respectfully crossed, from Wunambal or stone country languages to Kwini languages “from the east” (Kofod, 1993). In the exhibition two artists represent each language group. Despite inaccessibility of art materials (Waringarri Arts supplies paper, canvas and ochres from Kununurra about 550k away by the post plane or a 16-hour drive), patchy internet and the additional adversity of Covid-19 virus restrictions, the art centre links generations.
Betty Bundamurra: “We have the art centre so we can hold our stories, language, dance and culture for the next generation.” (Desert River Sea, AGWA, 2019, p.160.)
Over a 6-year period the thoughtful project Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley, initiated by Art Gallery of Western Australia in association with Indigenous art centres and based in Broome trained artworkers, captured this history and created artist archives (see the interviews below). The superb finale was the exhibition in 2019. Connected to the Land continues this example of respectful exchange and teaching the basics of traditional culture, or connections to the Land, through contemporary art. These artists’ powerful works speak to the need to conserve and protect world heritage cultural sites; in May mining corporation Rio Tinto destroyed Juukan Gorge, one of more than 463 sites that mining companies operating in Western Australia have applied for permission to destroy or disturb since 2010.
At the end of their activities on earth Wandjina lay down in a cave and turn into a painting.
Betty Bundamurra: “The rocks where warriors are buried is painted with white ochre … Warriors and elders past and present from generation to generation.” (Desert River Sea, p.82.)
Notes: see at end
Mary Umagarri Teresa Taylor, Aru & Yulu, 2013, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K130197)
Mary Umagarri Teresa Taylor, Berkley River Coloured Stones, 2011, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K110735)
Mary Umagarri Teresa Taylor, Aru, 2016, natural ochre and pigment on canvas, 45 x 45 cm (WAA-5231-16)
Mary Umagarri Teresa Taylor, Aru, 2016, natural ochre and pigment on canvas, 76 x 76 cm (5239-16)
Connected to the Land, The Cross Art Projects, 2020
Mary Punchi Clement (L to R, Installation) Sea Totems, Wandjinas, Wandjina
Mary Punchi Clement (Left wall), Betty Bundamurra (Right wall)
Betty Bundamurra (T) Hunters, 2011, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 28 x 38 cm & (B) Kira Kiro, 2019, natural ochre and pigment on canvas, 45 x 45 cm
Betty Bundamurra, Wandjina, Gwion and Tools, 2010, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K100428)
Angelina Karadada, Wandjina Emerging, 2020, white gum sap and charcoal on canvas, 100.3 x 80.3 cm (K02217-20)
Betty Bundamurra (L to R, installation) Traditional Tools, Kira Kiro's Song Lines About the Land, Kira Kiro Happy Spirits, Hunters, Kira Kiro & Wandjina, Gwion and Tools
Betty Bundamurra, Traditional Tools, 2015, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K00159-15)
Betty Bundamurra (L) Kira Kiro's Song Lines About the Land, 2020, 60 x 60 cm & (R) Kira Kiro Happy Spirits, 2018, 60 x 60 cm, both natural ochre and pigment on canvas
Angelina Karadada, Installation
Angelina Karadara, Installation
Angelina Karadada, (L to R, installation) Wandjina Emerging I, Wandjina Emerging, Wandjina Emerging III, Wandjina Emerging II, Wandjina Emerging IV
Angelina Karadada (b.1967)
Language Group: Wunambal
Painter and senior arts worker at Kira Kiro Artists Angelina Karadada is a graduate of the National Gallery of Australia Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership Fellowship and the ANKA Arts Worker Extension Program. Her parents, Lily Karadada (sometimes spelt Lily Karedada) and Jack Karadada (named after their totem, the butcherbird or karadada), are significant artists in the Wandjina tradition as are other family members. In 2020 Angelina Karadada Boona exhibited her work her work Wandjina Emerging in the Hedland Jury Prize and won the Cathy Donnelley Encouragement Award category.
Angelina Karadada, Artist Statement, 2020
"My mum used to paint on bark, bush baskets and Numarrga (bush cradle). I learnt two languages from my parent, plus other languages in my life."
Betty Bundamurra (1960)
Languages: Ngarinyin, Wunambal, Worrora
Artist, poet and storyteller, Betty Bundamurra was born at Karunjie Station where her father was a stockman. At age three her mother passed away and she was taken to Kalumburu Mission Convent. Later she worked as a teacher's aide at Kalumburu School. When Kira Kiro Artists opened in 2009, she rapidly established herself as a senior artist known for her bold experiments and rock art stories and senior artsworker. She is a graduate of the ANKA Arts Worker Extension Program. Public collections: National Gallery of Australia.
Betty Bundamurra, Artist Statement, 2020
Our parents taught us many things about the land. How to read the land and the seasons. Summer was for hunting and fishing. We travelled through the land looking for food and camping near waterpools where animals and birds like to be. We travelled from one place to another. We read the stars at night to know when how to catch turtles. When Spring approached we were taught how to catch emus. After the rain season finished, we collected oysters, shells and crabs. In summer we collected yams and fruits and camped in caves when the rain began. We also learned to read the plants when the flowers bloomed or when to light fires. It was for a reason back then, for our diet. First we would get food and water from the land then from the sea we would hunt and fish. We also were taught to protect places where our people once lived. We were taught about places like the rock art and where the spirits live. We must not take so much from the land, river and sea. We also like to share. We like to draw the places we have been through with our parents and teach our children about these places as well.
Mary Punchi Clement (b.1948 – 2016)
Language Group: Kwini
Artist and community elder, Mary Punchi Clement held a wealth of knowledge regarding her cultural traditions. Her painting themes were ceremony and events especially dancing and hunting. Her botanical paintings include land plants, freshwater and saltwater aquatic plants, known as food sources for sea creatures which are also an important part of Kalumburu culture. Her totem is the turtle. She learnt art techniques and stories by watching older relatives especially Louise Karadada and her mother Ignatia. Her father’s artwork was displayed in the Great Exhibition of World Cultures at Vatican Museum, organised by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and again in the Vatican Ethnographic Museum in 2010 for the canonisation of Mary MacKillop, the first Australian saint. (Artist identified in Jahn, 2010, p.174.) Public collections: National Gallery of Australia.
Mary Teresa Taylor (b.1939 – 2018)
Language Group: Kwini
Mary Taylor grew up in Oombulgurri (formerly Forrest River Mission), with her parents and grandparents, King David and Ethel. She was one of the Traditional Owners for the Balanggarra Native Title area extending from Kalumburu to the western border of the Cambridge Gulf in the east. When her husband passed away in 2005 she moved to Kalumburu to be with two of her children. Since 2010 she has been prominent at the Kira Kiro Artists stall at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, selected for the 27th NATSIAA at the Museum and Gallery of Northern Territory and Revealed Exhibition of Emerging Indigenous Artists from WA (2012 TAFE Central Gallery, Perth) and a finalist in the Port Hedland Art Award. Collection: Artbank Australia.
Biographies courtesy of Kira Kiro Artists & Waringarri Aboriginal Arts
The cross-cultural history of Kalumburu, a small settlement of under 500 people, is epic. First Nations peoples negotiated international relations with “Malay” trepang fishers for several hundred years until they were banned in 1907. In contrast, colonial history in the Kimberley is notoriously marked by dispossession, dispersal and exceptional brutality (pastoralists and mining, 1881 to 1918) and barbarity (gun justice and massacres; slavery or rations feudalism; wide-spread use of neck chains unchecked by the state). Traditional owners fought back valiantly but were overwhelmed by numbers and disease.
Some missions were refuges against human and cultural genocide. Kalumburu (former Drysdale River Mission) is admired for its ongoing commitment. Established in 1908 as Drysdale River Mission by monks from New Norcia Spanish Benedictine Mission (they moved to the present site at Kalumburu Pool, in 1937). Aboriginal people, the monks and nuns built up a self-sustaining community; albeit complicit in state Stolen Generations policy into the 1970s. In 1943, it was the site of a World War II airbase, and became an essential part of the North West air effort. The mission was bombed in WWII, and a priest and some Aboriginal children were killed. The Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation manages the settlement and the mission is now a historic precinct and museum (of secular and sacred artefacts) watched over by a priest and nuns. Anthropological interest has been a steady cross-cultural influence: principally the Frobenius Expedition (1938-39), scholar/monk Dom Theodore Hernandez (1940s), Ian Crawford (WA Museum, 1961-1993 including oral histories) and Kim Ackerman.
Kira Kiro Artists
Betty Bundamarra, Artist and historian
“We wanted to tell our stories through painting, to show where our ancestors and parents lived on the land and how we survived in the bush. We heard our elders, past and present, tell us that we must continue our ways of culture. Mary Clement, Mary Taylor and myself and others decided to paint. I knew the two Mary’s all my life and I learned a lot from them. We got help from Waringarri Arts, and step by step, we continued with other artists. In 2009 it became an arts centre.”
Art has always played a cultural and economic role in Kalumburu. Since its foundation in 2009 Kira Kiro Artists has been jointly managed by the highly respected Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, an artists’ collective founded 1985 in Kununurra. The art centre plays a crucial role in training and supporting artists and helping preserve a World Heritage rock art archive.
Monies raised by sales go back into a sustainable Indigenous-run enterprise, especially needed in Covid-19 times.
1925: Great Exhibition of World Cultures, Vatican Museum, organised by Pope Pius XI. See: Australian Collection in the Vatican Museum - https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/australian-collection-vatican-museums
1993: Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, Judith Ryan with Kim Akerman, National Gallery of Victoria. Notes: focus is north-west and central Kimberley and representations of the Wandjina spirit being. Paddy Jaminji & the Gurirr Gurirr; the East Kimberley aesthetic; the art of Fitzroy Crossing; the art of Balgo; Kimberley art and material culture and languages.
2003: True Stories: An exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art from the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Art Gallery of NSW.
2010: Rituals of Life: the Spirituality and Culture of Aboriginal Australians through the Vatican Collection, a partnership with the National Museum of Australia. A team led by senior Indigenous Curator Margo Neale assisted the Vatican with research into the origins of the artworks and their display.
2014: In the Saddle - On the Wall, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts centre.
2014: Joonba, Junba and Juju: Song and dance cycles of the Kimberley, UTS Gallery, Sydney (first shown 2013 for Darwin Festival). Three sets of dance narratives: In Gija and Miriwoong languages the word is joonba, in Ngarinyin junba and in Bunuba country juju.
2019: Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Edited by Carly Lane, Emilia Galatis and Stefano Carboni. The exhibition co-curated by Lane and Galatis, was the culmination of a six-year project working Indigenous art centres and training up and empowering artworkers in a range of skills.
Notes (for text above)
1. Interview with Mary Teresa Taylor for Desert River Sea project filmed with Indigenous Community Stories, Kalumburu, 8 July 2015
2. Patricia Vinnicombe, ‘Kimberley ideology and the maintenance of sites’, in G. K. Ward (ed.), Retouch: Maintenance and conservation of Aboriginal rock imagery, 1992. Occasional AURA Publication 5, Australian Rock Art Research Association, Melbourne, p. 10. ABC Science, 6 February 2020: Gwion paintings in the Kimberley were created around 12,000 years ago. At https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-02-06/gwion-rock-art-in-kimberley-dated-using-wasp-nests/11924584
3. Sir George Grey, Expeditions in Western Australia, 1841. Cited in Ian Crawford, The Art of the Wandjina, 1968, pp 64-8.
4. Judith Ryan with Kim Ackerman, op cit, p.16. Ackerman argues Wandjina in art are specific to Worrorra, Ngaryin and Woonambal people who trace their own descent from Wandjina spirit ancestors. But more broadly Wandjina is a generic term relating to spirit ancestors in N.W. Kimberley.
5. Mary Macha under the auspices of the Aboriginal Arts Board. Macha valued quality and integrity of materials and initiated artist training and held exhibitions at Aboriginal Traditional Arts, Perth, which included the Karadada family and Ignatia and Waigan Djangara. The first solo show was by Alec Mingelmanganu. See: Judith Ryan with Kim Ackerman, ‘Shadows of Wandjina’, op cit, p.16. Macha's archive is vested in the Battye Library, Perth.
6. Philippa Jahn, ‘Between Rocks and Hard Places: Mary Puntji Clement and the Kalumburu Art Project’, in Indigenous Archives: The Making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art, eds Darren Jorgensen and Ian McLean, 2017, UWA Publishing. Philippa Jahn, a former Kira Kiro Artists manager, cites Marcia Langton in The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, 2000 eds., Kleinert and Neale. For a history of Kalumburu see Ian Crawford, We won the victory: aborigines and outsiders on the North West coast of the Kimberley, 2001.
7. Francis Kofod, ‘Kimberley Languages’, Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley, op cit, pp.6-9.
8. The destruction of 46-000 year-old Juukan Gorge caves by mining company Rio Tinto is not unique: Juukan Gorge is one of more than 463 sites that mining companies operating in Western Australia have applied for permission to destroy or disturb since 2010. Experts say Federal and State Aboriginal heritage laws must change to give Traditional Owners a voice and legislative power as they have no formal right of consultation or appeal. See The Conversation by Samantha Hepburn: https://theconversation.com/rio-tinto-just-blasted-away-an-ancient-aboriginal-site-heres-why-that-was-allowed-139466
Co-curators Angelina Karadada and Leana Collier with Betty Bundamurra (with assistance from Waringarri Arts (Madeleine Challender and Kate Croll) and The Cross Art Projects (Belle Blau, Simon Blau, Phillip Boulten, Susan Gilligan and Kim Scott.)
Links & Downloads
ANKA, the peak body Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists (ANKA) - http://ankaaa.org.au/
Kalumburu Aboriginal Corporation - http://www.kalumburu.org/
Warringarri Aboriginal Arts - https://www.waringarriarts.com.au/
Kira Kiro Artists on Warringarri site - https://www.waringarriarts.com.au/kira-kiro-artists/about-us
Connected to the Land Digital catalogue > Download as pdf
Videos about Kira Kiro Art Centre and artist interviews: