The works of the late Walmajrri artist Jimmy Kurnti Pike are renowned internationally for their brilliance and a selection are showcased in Ngirramanujuwal: The Art and Country of Jimmy Pike, the latest title from Aboriginal Studies Press.
Born into a traditional community near Jila Japingka waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, Jimmy Pike learned Walmajarri law at an early age before becoming a stockman and later running into trouble with white law.
It was while he was in gaol that Jimmy began to draw, paint and print, and to create and to innovate with technique. His use of bold, bright colours stood in contrast to the dominant forms of Aboriginal art of the time. In this way, he shared knowledge of his Country and provided insights into how his people moved in the world.
At the launch of Ngirramanujuwal in Parliament House in Canberra tonight, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, spoke of the inspiration in Jimmy Pike’s works.
‘Visual art is a particularly powerful medium in which we can share our stories,’ Minister Wyatt said.
‘Jimmy was prolific. He challenged the Aboriginal art stereotypes of the time, dispelling views that life in the desert was dry and bleak, to depict a world which was full of bright, bold and fluorescent hues.
‘Personally, I reflect on Jimmy's renowned illustrations of the Japinka waterhole – an important place on the Country that he came from. Water sources often hold ceremonial, social and survival importance for Aboriginal people. Much like the waterhole, we have come together today to share Jimmy's art and ensure its survival.’
The images in Ngirramanujuwal are drawn from the Jimmy Pike Collection, donated to AIATSIS in 2016 by Pat Lowe, Jimmy’s wife and long-time collaborator. The collection includes over 440 artworks, 1600 photographs and 300 minutes of audio recordings.
The AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie, noted that the innovative nature of Jimmy Pike’s work meant that his legacy went beyond the vibrant use of colour.
‘We can say that he was more than an artist – he was also a researcher, a scientist, an archivist, and an environmentalist,’ Mr Ritchie said.
‘Jimmy Pike’s work involved both investigation of ideas and innovation with them.
‘He was imbued with links to Country and Culture from the earliest months of his life. And he continued identify personally with those links – and later to express those links graphically – for the whole of his life. By way of this innovation and questioning, Jimmy Pike shared knowledge of his Country and provided insights into the philosophies and symbolism of his people.
‘Ngirramanujuwal: The Art and Country of Jimmy Pike is the window for sharing his experience of desert landscape, of his Walmajarri Country, of his people, and of his creative source.’
Aboriginal Studies Press is the publishing arm of AIATSIS.
ISBN 9781922752000 | Hardback | 144pp | 279 x 240 mm | released 1 April 2022
Images are available upon request.