Women paint a way
■ Three years ago a group of women at Ngurrawaana Aboriginal Community started painting with the dream of making their community self-sustainable into the future.
Ngurrawaana was set up as a dry community in the 1980s, so residents could live and work on country.
Home to about 25 people, the community is situated 100km south east of Karratha in the heart of Yindjibarndi country bordering Millstream-Chichester National Park.
It might not lot look like much, with only 12 houses, a school with no teacher and a small library with only a modest supply of books.
But the people who make Ngurrawaana their home have some ambitious plans to transform their community.
Since building the community’s art centre in 2012, a group of Yindjibarndi women have worked with Karratha artist Carrie McDowell to establish a range of art work featuring unique ochre designs on canvas.
Ms McDowell said she hoped the artwork they produced would become another way of strengthening the community’s financial independence.
“They’ve got all the skills but I help facilitate getting their art sold and out into the big world … it can be a bit isolating out here,” she said.
“I try to give them an edge to be a little bit different because the market is flooded with some incredibly talented artists in Roebourne.
“I get them to use their artistic talent to make things like beads out of local seeds and book covers which have sold really well.
“The ochre painting is also something a bit different because they are the only artists in the Pilbara painting with it.”
Ngurrawaana artist Jenie King said ochre had been used for generations by the Yindjibarndi people in ceremony.
“I grew up here and remember seeing my grandfather use it before when he was making spears and shields, so I thought I’d try use it in my painting,” she said.
“We collect rocks from Millstream, crush the rocks and mix it with PVA glue to make the ochre paint.
“It’s relaxing to paint the country… I feel lucky to be out here where there’s no noise, no alcohol and no drugs.
“We get to have a good rest from the town and eat bush food more often.”
Community artist Lisa Allen said her strong connection with country inspired her to paint “Going Hunting”, which won Best Artwork by Pilbara Artist at the 2015 Cossack Art Awards.
“I told Carrie I was painting Going Hunting and then it won that art award... I couldn’t believe it.” she said.
“I have lived here my whole life, I am very connected to my country.
“I paint lots of things, birds, goannas, turtles, butterflies, the country… they all inspire me.”
Ms McDowell said the community artists had come a long way in the past three years and had experienced much success in the local art scene.
“It was always a dream of one of the elders here, Rosemary Woodley, to have a fully function-
Lisa Allen showing off a rock from Millstream used to make ochre.
Ngurrawaana Community is home to 25 Yindjibarndi people.
Ngurrawaana Community School now stands empty.