Part of Kimberley WA
The Kimberley region of northern Western Australia is a vast region covering more than 400 000 square kilometres. It is home to Aboriginal people of diverse language and cultures. Kimberley art is recognised as a strong and distinctive style. The first of the major developments in Kimberley painting was at Warmun (Turkey creek), south of Kununurra when a group of artists emerged in the late 1970s who painted ceremonial boards using natural ochres. The style of painters such as the late Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, Jack Britten and others is identifiable by its use of flat areas of thick ochre, silhouette forms and marking of outlines with white or pale ochre dots.
Fitzroy Crossing was originally settled in 1893 as a telegraph depot, but it was not until the 1930's that Aboriginal people began to settle in the community, around the site of a newly established ration station. In 1952 the responsibility for running this station was given to the United Aborigines Mission (UAM). The UAM was strongly opposed to any practice of traditional Aboriginal religion and sought to replace it with christianity. In the 1960's and 70's the Aboriginal population grew rapidly. For the most part due to the laying off Aboriginal workers from cattle stations after the equal wages decision in the 1965 pastoral award case. Acrylic painting began in Fitzroy crossing with the establishment of an adult education centre at the town in 1982. Like the artists of Warmun (Turkey Creek) artists from Fitzroy crossing combine personal and modern events with traditional dreamtime stories. Through the establishment of Mangkaja Arts Centre, painting became a way of rediscovering and strengthening important cultural and cosmological links to the Dreamtime and the land. Important Aboriginal artists from Fitzroy Crossing include, Jimmy Pike, Butcher Cherel Janangoo and Peter Skipper The art from Fitzroy Crossing is very distinctive, utilising freely drawn, flowing designs that are executed with vibrant colour, The work primarily depicts the sacred land of the artist either from an aerial perspective, typical in desert iconography to more figurative images of the country that are combine desert iconography with a European perspective which utilises the horizon line. Influence of the Christian missionaries still remains today, and like many Aboriginal people from this community, artists such as Peter Skipper, Jarinyanu David Downs and Hector Jandany practise a religion that incorporates both Christian and Aboriginal beliefs. The expression of Christian cosmology within art occurs to a greater or lesser extent and is a personal decision of the artist. For example, Peter Skipper, does not depict Christian subject matter in this work, as he explains "I don't want to mess around with God". In contrast Jarinyanu David Downs and Hector Jandany often incorporate Christian beliefs with traditional Aboriginal stories in their paintings. For instance Jarinyanu interprets the story of Moses and the ten commandments as parallel to the Aboriginal story of the two men "wati kujarra", who during the dreamtime established the laws for Kukatja, Wangajunka and Walmajarri tribes. Far from dissipating Traditional Aboriginal spirituality, this liberal incorporation of Christianity within Aboriginal cosmology has awakened a sense of place and spirituality, that has lead to the innovative creation of new ceremony and art.