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Connected to the Land

BY The Cross Art Projects | 25-Jun-2020
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.
Venue: The Cross Art Projects
Address: 8 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross 2011
Date: Saturday 20 June to 1 August 2020
Web: https://crossart.com.au/
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Connected to the Land
Betty Bundamurra, Traditional Tools, 2015, natural ochre and pigment on paper, 76 x 56 cm (K00159-15)
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.