Hector Jandany
Gija/Kija people
'Ascension' 1993

Purchased 2005

© the artist’s estate, courtesy Warmun Art Centre

The Roman Catholic Church was established throughout the greater Kimberley from the 1880s onwards and its influence on Aboriginal people has been varied, but continues to this day. The Sisters of the Congregation of St Joseph played a major role in Catholic education throughout the region,[1] and two of their members arrived at Warmun in the late 1970s to commence a 'two-way' education program that eventually involved a number of local artists such as Hector Jandany. Jandany made paintings of traditional subjects specifically for the children at the local school to assist in the continuation of the teaching of Gija culture and language. Jandany had his own blend of Gija law and Catholicism,[2] and the themes of his paintings were drawn from the Ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) and the gospels, focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. He describes this painting, about the ascension of Christ to heaven, thus:

The two spirits on the right make the fire;
the two spirits on the left
get the meal of fish ready;
Jesus' friends (are) at the bottom of the picture.

Jesus said:
'We all have supper;
This is my last day
I have supper with you
I got to go away
I go longa way "Ngapuny Ngarrangkarrinjl"'.[3]

His friends did not know that the fire would make a big smoke

It make a big smoke and come up behind the hill and took Jesus up to Heaven

That smoke bin come and lift him up and take him away to Heaven.

Wally Caruana

[1] The Congregation was founded by the Blessed Mary MacKillop in 1866.

[2] J Ryan, 'Bones of country: The East Kimberley aesthetic,' in J Ryan with K Akerman, Images of power: Aboriginal art of the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, p 43.

[3] 'I go along the way to God's place in the Dreaming (Eternity).'

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010

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Indigenous Art

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The art of contemporary Indigenous Australians takes many forms. Despite significant change and diversity, the art retains an underlying unity of inspiration—the land and the peoples' relationships with it. It is simultaneously connected to the past and


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The art of contemporary Indigenous Australians takes many forms. Despite significant change and diversity, the art retains an underlying unity of inspiration—the land and the peoples' relationships with it. It is simultaneously connected to the past and engaged with the present, engaging with the world through actions which are lively, positive, political, social and creative.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection at the National Gallery of Australia comprises over 7500 works and is the largest in the world. These new gallery spaces allow much more of the collection to be seen with each one specifically designed for a different geographic region or aspect of Indigenous art and, where possible, paintings and sculptures are illuminated overhead by natural daylight, akin to the light in which the works were created.

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