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 Artists Honouring Country and Showcasing at DAAF 2024

Welcome back to our feature artist series, where we delve into the captivating world of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artistry. Here we explore the intricate interplay between Country, cultural figures & stories, totems and animals, as showcased by Art Centres who’ll be part of the upcoming Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) 2024.

Our Art Centres brave a long journey each year from across the most remote regions of Australia, to come together on Larrakia Country. These diverse Countries, cultures and communities are what makes an event like DAAF so special.

Always was always will be. As the Traditional Custodians of Country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have cared for Country since time immemorial. This continuing connection, to the vast land and seas across the continent, is inherent in many of the works you’ll find at DAAF.

This month, we’re taking a look at artists’ works exploring their ancestral knowledge, personal stories of, and connection to Country. 

Want more? You’ll be able to shop each of their works at the Fair!

Lyn Thorpe, at Spacecraft. Image courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

Lyn Thorpe, at Spacecraft, Photo by James Henry, courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

Lyn Thorpe

Art Centre: Kaiela Arts, Shepparton, Yorta Yorta Country

Kaiela Arts is one of only two Aboriginal art centres in Victoria, a vibrant hub for First Nations creativity and cultural expression, located in Shepparton, in the heart of Yorta Yorta Country. Paying homage to ancestors and Country, Kaiela Arts artists bring ancient knowledge systems to life in contemporary forms, through their art and stories.

Lyn Thorpe is a proud Yorta Yorta woman and senior creative practising and working at Kaiela Arts. Her Aboriginality is very important to her, no culture or heritage is static, and that is also true for her Yorta Yorta people.

Lyn’s artwork, featuring at DAAF in 2024, has been created collaboratively with Stewart Russell and Danica Miller at Melbourne-based print and design studio Spacecraft. Three large scale screen-printed banners titled ‘Yorta Yorta Woka Cultural Medicine’ represent a sense of pride for her people and Aboriginal ways of knowing and being.

“Our natural ways of communicating takes many shapes and forms, spirituality; sharing; yarning; arts; dance; music; singing and so on. Our ways of thinking and knowing connects us to our ancestral lands and peoples, knowledge systems, significant places, stories and memories that speak to us, our families, our children and grandchildren…our future generations.

When I look at these works, I think about how art for me is more about nurturing and celebrating our Aboriginal connections. I feel it’s important not only to be able to see ourselves as mob but also how it can connect with others through our works…sort of like common ground, same but different. For me this work is about going back to the essence of what’s in my heart when I think about Aboriginality and our rich connections to all that makes us Aboriginal, who we are and where we come from.”

– Lyn Thorpe

Image: ‘Yorta Yorta Woka Cultural Medicine’ by Lyn Thorpe, Photo by James Henry, courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

Justina Willis. Photo by Bobbi Lockyer. Image courtesy of Yinjaa-Barni Art.

Justina Willis. Photo by Bobbi Lockyer.

Justina Willis

Art Centre: Yinjaa-Barni Art, Roebourne, Pilbara, Leramagadu Country

Justina Willis was born in Leigh Creek in South Australia. Roebourne is her mother’s Country. She came to live permanently in Roebourne, in 1999, and has been here ever since. Her art journey began in 2006 after visiting and watching her family paint at the Yinjaa-Barni Art Centre. 

“Pilbara is the Country where we the Yindjibarndi people live and share many of our cultural stories and history that have been passed onto us by our ancestors of how they used to walk through the flat Country we call the (Table Lands) visiting family members at nearby stations.

Our Country has so much to offer. Bush foods and medicine as well as animals like emu, kangaroo, and goanna. When the rains come our rivers are full and we all love to go out and spend the day fishing. We are also close to the ocean, so we often go fishing there as well.

During the holidays many of our families go bush to enjoy what the Country offers. Our Country is full of riches, and we are connected to our land.”

– Justina Willis

Justina Willis, Our Country (The Pilbara), acrylic on canvas, 1970mm x 1235mm, 2024. Image courtesy of Yinjaa-Barni Art.

Image: Justina Willis, Our Country (The Pilbara), acrylic on canvas, 1970mm x 1235mm, 2024. Image courtesy of Yinjaa-Barni Art.

Dolly Loogatha in the studio.

Dolly Loogatha Thunduyingathui Bangaa

Art Centre: Mirndiyan Gununa, Mornington Island Art – MIART, Lardil Country

Mornington Island artists are heavily influenced and connected to their Land and Culture in their artistic interpretations. Their remoteness means the artists concentrate heavily on cultural and spiritual subject matter – all centred on connection to Country. Country is the location as much as it is the heritage and the abiding subject matter of the artists. 

“Thundi is where I was born. It’s also my Father’s Country on Bentinck Island. Today my family go back to hunt and camp, so the younger one would not forget Country. I paint my Country to remember my family and so they and I could keep and know our connection to Country.

I go every day to paint my stories and keep my memories alive… It makes me feel good and proud when I see the finished painting.”

– Dolly Loogatha

Dolly Loogatha, My Country, acrylic on round canvas, 40.5cm diameter, 2023. Image courtesy of Mirndiyan Gununa - Mornington Island Art – MIART

Dolly Loogatha, My Country, acrylic on round canvas, 40.5cm diameter, 2023. Image courtesy of Mirndiyan Gununa – Mornington Island Art – MIART

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton. Photo by Meagan Jacobs

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton. Photo by Meagan Jacobs.

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton

Art Centre: Artists of Ampilatwatja, Alyawarr Country 

Artists of Ampilatwatja paint Arreth, which translates to ‘strong bush medicine’, demonstrating a deep connection to Country. A veritable source of life, the land has provided and sustained Alyawarr people for generations, as every plant and animal has a vital role to play within the ecological system.

The paintings pay homage to the significance and use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into their community.

“My Mother, Lilly Kemarre, taught me to paint. She likes to paint her Mother’s and Father’s Country from the old days, when they used to live off of the land.

The landscape changes during the different seasons in the year. I paint the dried flowers and bushes from last season as well as the new plants that come after the rain. These plants have special meanings and uses for us. I have been taught how to read the Country, and now I teach my children these skills.”

– Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton, My Country and Bush Medicine Plants, acrylic on linen, 122cm x 107cm, 2024. Image courtesy of Artists of Ampilatwatja.

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton, My Country and Bush Medicine Plants, acrylic on linen, 122cm x 107cm, 2024. Image courtesy of Artists of Ampilatwatja.

Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton. Photo by Meagan Jacobs

Betty Mula in the Mimili Maku Arts studio.

Betty Mula

Art Centre: Mimili Maku Arts, Mimili Community, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land

Mimili Maku Arts is a vibrant contemporary art studio and cultural centre owned and governed by a strong board of Anangu directors. The Art Centre is located in Mimili Community on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the far northwest of South Australia.

Betty Mula is an emerging artist from Mimili. In her vibrant paintings she depicts the many different trees she grew up with. 

“The trees tell us many things: they tell us about the weather that’s coming, the weather that’s been, they point us towards food. It’s like my country’s own language that I’m sharing in my painting.

My painting is about the many different trees I have grown up with. Each tree has its own story. The trees tell us many things: they tell us about the weather that’s coming, the weather that’s been, they show us where soakages and river beds are, they point us towards food. It’s like my country’s own language that I’m sharing in my painting.”

– Betty Mula

Betty Mula, Punu Tjuta, synthetic polymer on linen, 152cm x 122cm, 2024. Image courtesy of Mimili Maku Arts.

Betty Mula, Punu Tjuta, synthetic polymer on linen, 152cm x 122cm, 2024. Image courtesy of Mimili Maku Arts.

Kieren Karritpul at Nauiyu Daly River. Photo by Cathy Laudenbach.

Kieren Karritpul at Nauiyu Daly River.

Kieren Karritpul

Art Centre: Merrepen Arts Culture and Language, Nauiyu (Daly River) community, Malk Malk Country

Merrepen Arts is an Indigenous Art Centre located in the Douglas Daly Region of the Northern Territory and is famous for its amazing textiles, paintings and prints that feature in all the major collections in Australia.

Artist Kieren Karritpul is featured in many Australian collections including the National Gallery, and was recently selected for Colomboscope in Sri Lanka.

“I paint to teach people about our traditions and culture and to draw attention to the importance of looking after our land. My ancestors have protected this Country for thousands of years. Now everyone must help.”

– Kieren Karritpul

Kieren Karritpul, woven weaving, acrylic on canvas, 80cm x 50cm, 2023. Photo by Cathy Laudenbach. Image courtesy of Merrepen Arts Culture and Language.

Kieren Karritpul, woven weaving, acrylic on canvas, 80cm x 50cm, 2023. Photo by Cathy Laudenbach. Image courtesy of Merrepen Arts Culture and Language.

See you in August!

If you enjoy reading our content, and attending DAAF’s events, then we’d love for you to join our community.

Your support, however big or small, helps our DAAF Foundation continue to support Abotiginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres, their artists and communities, throughout the year.

Join the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation family by making a tax deductable donation this end of financial year.

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