Gela Nga-Mirraitja FORDHAM WAINBURRANGA, How World War II began (through the eyes of the Rembarrnga) Enlarge 1 /1

Gela Nga-Mirraitja FORDHAM WAINBURRANGA

Rembarrnga people

Australia 1933 /1937 – 2006

How World War II began (through the eyes of the Rembarrnga) 1990 Place made: Jarruluk, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark

Dimensions: 65.0 h x 135.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1990
Accession No: NGA 90.1760
Image rights: © Gela Nga-Mirraitja Fordham. Licensed by Viscopy

Paddy Fordham Wainburranga has divided this bark painting into a number of sections to relay episodes of a complex moral tale — How World War II begun (through the eyes of the Rembarrnga) 1990. Japanese pearl divers and fishermen who worked the north coast of Australia traded tobacco, rice, sugar and alcohol for women. In 1941 a dispute broke out when a woman refused their advances. The Rembarrnga asked the Japanese to leave their lands. The Japanese returned and bombed Darwin. The Rembarrnga felt they had contributed to the Japanese attack and hence to the start of the Second World War. The Rembarrnga people of Arnhem Land were deeply and directly affected by the events of the Second World War.

The Japanese pearl divers and fishermen who worked the north coast of Australia traded tobacco, rice, sugar and alcohol for Aboriginal women. In 1941 a dispute broke out when a woman refused their advances, and the Japanese were banished by the Aboriginal people. Soon after the Japanese dropped bombs on Darwin and other places. The Rembarrnga people, who had asked the Japanese to leave their lands following the dispute, felt they had contributed to the attack that followed and hence the start of the war.

In the top right of the composition the Japanese are led away by the police, who can be identified by their wide brimmed hats and guns. The presence of the serpent is a reminder by the artist that the intruders were on Aboriginal land.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra