by Shirley Purdie
Natural ochre & pigment on canvas
Image © Courtesy of Warmun Art Centre, appearing at FA@H 2019
Located some 3000km north of Hale School campus in Wembley Downs, lies the community of Warmun in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Warmun Art Centre is a significant cultural institution, owned and governed by the Gija people, and central to the community itself.
With a reputation as one of the most renowned and respected centres for Aboriginal art in Australia, followers of Indigenous art will be familiar with the names Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Madigan Thomas and Hector Jandany, who all helped establish the Warmun Art Centre in 1998.
Around this time, under the direction of Deputy Headmaster David Bean, the first Kimberley Cross Cultural Tour was undertaken with a group of Year 11 Hale School boys to the Warmun Community. With the subsequent commencement of the Indigenous Scholarship Program at Hale School, a developing and mutually beneficial relationship between Hale School and the Warmun Community began to grow.
With several boys from the remote community having graduated from the school, in 2016, a group of Warmun artists donated five significant artworks, in support of the scholarship program and in recognition of the relationship with the school. As the Fine Art @ Hale exhibition showcases art from established and emerging Western Australian artists, it seems a natural fit that Fine Art @ Hale should build on this relationship. Manager of the Warmun Art Centre, Stephanie Rajalingam, thinks so too:
“Warmun artists and community members have had a longstanding relationship with Hale School, notably through cross-cultural awareness and education but also through commonalities in the stock and cattle station industry. The artists paint their ancestral Countries and Cultural stories linked to the lands, through the medium of ochre and natural clay pigments. Stories from Ngarrangarni (Dreaming), Culture, Language, Law, Corroborree and connection to Country all help define the rich contemporary Gija Art movement of today.”Stephanie Rajalingam, Manager, Warmun Art Centre
Stephanie, artist Marika Riley, and members of the committee have selected paintings by emerging and established Warmun artists that will be shown in this year’s Fine Art @ Hale exhibition.
Those students who participated in the 2016 Kimberley Cross Cultural Tour will fondly recall community leader and renowned senior artist Shirley Purdie guiding them through a cultural training course on Warmun land. We are delighted to be able to include Shirley’s work, alongside paintings by other senior and mid career Warmun artists such as, Patrick Mung Mung, Evelyn Malgil and Mark Nodea.
The paintings from Warmun are characterised by their textured surfaces built from various, locally sourced, coloured ochres. The ochres are a tangible link to the East Kimberley region, and communicate the wealth of stories and cultural knowledge of the artists. These paintings will enrich the survey of art on display at Hale this year. The exhibition is open to the public and is held in Memorial Hall, Hale School from the 2nd– 4thAugust.