Partnering For The Future – Wunambal Gaambera Collaboration

About Us, Kimberley

Celebrating Country And Culture Through Collaboration

To celebrate our 20th-anniversary Great Escape collaborated with the Wunambal Gaambera traditional owners on a special project to share their story and celebrate our connection.

We commissioned six paintings from four Wunanbal Gaambera artists to show the Wanjina-Wunggurr culture of the Wunambal Gaambera people and worked together to create something really special. The art was used to create limited-edition polo shirts and scarves as gifts for our Great Escape guests cruising in 2019.

Artist, Lillian Karadada said, ” Working creatively with Great Escape, one of our Uunguu cruise operators that visit our country, is a really positive step forward. It’s also a great opportunity for us, the artists, to share our art and culture with the world.”

In July, Great Escape flew the artists from Kalumburu to Ngula (Jar Island) to welcome our guests ashore with a traditional smoking ceremony and to talk about their art, country, and culture. This was a really memorable experience for all involved.

“Our guests have absolutely loved receiving their special gifts as a symbol of Uunguu life to cherish after their time on country. We have received many photos of guests proudly displaying and wearing their art at home. We hope they are sharing the Wunambal Gaambera story with all of their family and friends. We look forward to working with Wunambal Gaambera now and into the future to showcase the spectacular Kimberley to the world.” Kylie Bartle, Owner / Manager – The Great Escape Charter Company.

The Wunambal Gaambera artists involved in the project were, Lillian Karadada, John Paul Karadada, Gemma Unghango, and Rosa Marnga. Below are their stories.

Lillian Karadada

Lillian Karadada was born in Derby Hospital in 1960. She has lived most of her life in Kalumburu. Lillian is a Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal person from the north Kimberley region of Western Australia. Her father, Lewis Karadada is Wunambal and her mother, Rosie Peggy is Gaambera.

Lillian is from a big family of artists. She was named after her Aunt Lily, a well-known artist and one of Lillian’s main inspirations. Lillian started painting when she was 10 years old. She was inspired by her parents whom she watched paint traditional paintings on bark and didgeridoo using ochre paints.

“I started painting when I was about ten because I used to watch my mum and dad do carving on didgeridoo and do painting on canvas and on bark,” says Lillian.

Lillian explains the Gwion figure she painted using traditional ochre paint on canvas, for a commissioned artwork for the Great Escape Charter Company based in Broome.

“The artwork that I done for the Great Escape is the Gwion figure, using ochre paint; brown, black and a little bit of yellow. It tells the story of the Gwion figures going to look for bush food because they have got the digging stick.”

Jemma Unhango

Jemma Unhango is a Gaambera woman. She was born and raised by the nuns in the Kalumburu Mission in the north Kimberley, Western Australia in 1961. Her mother is Gaambera and her father is from the Wullumbi tribe.

Jemma started painting, “a long time ago” she says. She was inspired by one of the priests growing up in the mission.

“Painting in the mission we had a priest here – he’s not here now. He wanted me to start painting. He told me to keep painting and I became much better,” she remembers.

Jemma has been heavily involved in painting artworks for the Kalumburu Catholic Church. Now she sells her paintings to people who come into town. “I do paintings at the Kira Kiro Art Centre here in Kalumburu as well,” adds Jemma. She also sells her artwork through the Waringarri Art Centre in Kununurra.

Jemma created two artworks for Great Escape. Jemma explains her two paintings which she created in traditional ochres. “These paintings mean a lot to our ancestors. We have a lot of stories here,” she says.

One painting is of a Wanjina in a pearl shell colour, surrounded by two larger figures wearing hats and two skinnier black figures.

Jemma describes this painting, “Wanjina is the rainmaker and the two Gwion figures wearing hats are dancing for the Wanjina. We carry the culture of the Wanjina and the Gwion figures. Our ancestors worshiped the Wanjina. When it is dry in the land they pray to the Wanjina to bring the rain”

Her second artwork depicts small dancing figures. Jemma explains these figures as “Jimmi Jimmis.”

“The little figures are jimmi jimmis. They are good spirits. They guide you in the bush. They are all dancing together with the other Gwion figures. The hat is the ornament they wear when they are dancing,” she adds.

Rosa Marnga

Rosa Marnga is a Gaambera woman from her mother’s side and Kwini from her father’s side. Her grandfather’s country is Gaambera country, Gibson Point (on Cape Bougainville).

Rosa has been busy with her children and grandchildren, but now they have grown up, she is finding more time to do her art. Rosa enjoys painting, mainly because she is keen to better understand the meaning of the painting and the country where the paintings are from.

“Old people teach us about rock paintings. It’s interesting. We also have the stories written down now in a book, which tells us the meaning of rock art. We can now share this with our young people,” explains Rosa.

Rosa’s artwork for the Great Escape Art Project depicts the meeting of five Wanjinas from the Bougainville Peninsula.

Rosa explains seeing the rock formation which inspired her painting. “My grandfather told me the story about the meeting place on his country. Later, we were flying over our country showing people the work we do for our country, and you could see from the helicopter the five Wanjinas.”

John Paul Karadada

Find out more about Wunambal Gaambera people www.wunambalgaambera.org.au