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Kukatja/Wangkajunga peoples

Australia 1926 /1928 – 1998

Night Sky 1995 Place made: Warmun (Turkey Creek), Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, natural pigments on canvas

Dimensions: 200.0 h x 161.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1996
Accession No: NGA 96.2
Image rights: © the artist's estate, courtesy Warmun Art Centre

The Kimberley area in the north west of Australia ranges from monumental rock formations in the east to the place where the desert meets the sea in the west. The practice of making headdresses and other paraphernalia for ceremonial dances in the area led to the recent use of painted boards which are carried across the dancers' shoulders. In about 1980, a school of painting emerged in the eastern Kimberley of which Thomas was the leading figure.

Rover Thomas was born in the Great Sandy Desert. At the age of ten he moved with his family to the Kimberley where, as was usual at the time, he began work as a stockman. During the 1940s he was initiated into traditional law. His experience of growing up in the region was common to the vast majority of Aboriginal people of the Kimberley and adjacent areas. Europeans settled in the region late in the 19th century, first to mine gold and then to raise cattle. After many years of conflict, Aboriginal people were forced to work for the recently arrived ranch owners. Despite these circumstances, many Aboriginal people kept the connection with their ancestral lands where they were able to conduct ceremonies and continue traditional beliefs.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra