Hector JANDANY, Ascension [Kimberley] Enlarge 1 /1

Hector JANDANY

Gija/Kija people

Australia 1925 /1929 – 2006

Ascension [Kimberley] 1993 Place made: Warmun (Turkey Creek), Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, natural earth pigments and binders on canvas

Dimensions: 190.0 h x 196.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2005
Accession No: NGA 2005.595

The Roman Catholic Church was established throughout the greater Kimberley from the 1880s onwards and its influence on Aboriginal people has been varied, but continues to this day. The Sisters of the Congregation of St Joseph played a major role in Catholic education throughout the region,[1] and two of their members arrived at Warmun in the late 1970s to commence a ‘two-way’ education program that eventually involved a number of local artists such as Hector Jandany. Jandany made paintings of traditional subjects specifically for the children at the local school to assist in the continuation of the teaching of Gija culture and language. Jandany had his own blend of Gija law and Catholicism,[2] and the themes of his paintings were drawn from the Ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) and the gospels, focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. He describes this painting, about the ascension of Christ to heaven, thus:

The two spirits on the right make the fire;
the two spirits on the left
get the meal of fish ready;
Jesus’ friends (are) at the bottom of the picture.

Jesus said:
‘We all have supper;
This is my last day
I have supper with you
I got to go away
I go longa way “Ngapuny Ngarrangkarrinjl”’.[3]

His friends did not know that the fire would make a big smoke

It make a big smoke and come up behind the hill and took Jesus up to Heaven

That smoke bin come and lift him up and take him away to Heaven.

Wally Caruana

[1] The Congregation was founded by the Blessed Mary MacKillop in 1866.

[2] J Ryan, ‘Bones of country: The East Kimberley aesthetic,’ in J Ryan with K Akerman, Images of power: Aboriginal art of the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, p 43.

[3] ‘I go along the way to God’s place in the Dreaming (Eternity).’


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

Hector Jandany helped establish the east Kimberley school of painting around 1980. His subjects come from ancestral times that relate to his mother’s country, Ngarrgoorroon, from his earlier life as a stockman on Texas Downs Station, and from Christian themes. He was renowned for his sombre tones and restrained use of colour.
The artist’s statement accompanies this work:

The two spirits on the right make the fire; the two spirits on the left get the meal of fish ready; Jesus’ friends (are) at the bottom of the picture.
Jesus said: ‘We all have supper; This is my last day I have supper with you, I got to go away, I go longa way “Ngapuny Ngarrangkarrinjl”.’
His friends did not know that the fire would make a big smoke. It make a big smoke and come up behind the hill and took Jesus up to Heaven. That smoke bin come and lift him up and take him away to Heaven.

The spirit figures on the left and right sides of the canvas share characteristics with carved shields, or coolamons.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Hector Chundun Jandany was born at Warmun (Turkey Creek) in the East Kimberley region. His father, a Mirriwoong man, died when Jandany was a baby. His mother, a Gija woman, belonged to Ngarrgoorroon country north of Purnululu (the Bungle Bungle range). As a young boy Jandany was taken by relatives to his father’s country, which included Texas Downs. He later worked on Texas Downs Station as a stockman and camp cook. During years travelling and working in the region, he became familiar with the Ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) and ceremonial life.

He began painting at Warmun in 1979 and was a revered elder in the Warmun community as well as a practising Christian. With his distinctive figurative subjects painted in sombre tones, Jandany helped initiate the East Kimberley style in the early 1980s. His subjects include his mother’s Ngarrgoorroon country, his life as a stockman and Christian themes. His statement accompanying this painting refers to the Christian celebration of the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven:

The two spirits on the right make the fire; the two spirits on the left get the meal of fish ready; Jesus’ friends [are] at the bottom of the picture. Jesus said: ‘We all have supper; This is my last day I have supper with you, I got to go away, I go longa way “Ngapuny Ngarrangkarrinjl”. His friends did not know that the fire would make a big smoke. It make a big smoke and come up behind the hill and took Jesus up to Heaven. That smoke bin come and lift him up and take him away to Heaven.

Seated in pews, as if in church, five disciples watch as Christ ascends on a cloud of smoke. The depictions of the spirit figures on the left and right share characteristics with traditional carved shields.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014