Open or Close Menu

Selena Brown

Born in Port Hedland. I was a twin sister, Clara. Me and Clara did our school at Marble Bar. When we finish Mum and Dad pick us up and take us to Callawa. We yandy for gold in Dad’s country. Since we come back we went to Nine Mile and we stay out there and then to Strelley. We stayed there for school. I got married in Warralong. I got five kids. Lisa. Anthony. Renee. Marisha. Jason. Now I live in South Hedland.

I was driving the train from Callawa, my old man Ginger Bob’s Country, to Dixie. I was painting in Strelley long time. Sewing. Making Dish. But I forgot the sewing now. I like paint all the time. We was painting a lot at Warralong.

Cheyne Cameron

I was born and raised in the Geraldton Midwest region, which makes me a Yamatji Nyarlu. I’ve got five sisters and one brother. I’m the second youngest in my family.

I started painting in 2008, while I was in an Aboriginal girl’s class. I did a couple of things, and that’s when I found I had a talent for it. My dad does dot painting too – I learnt a lot from him. We’ve done some paintings together. My grandfather’s brother is an artist too- Clarrie Cameron. Painting is relaxing for me. I think about back in bush times when I paint- that’s why I use all my earthy colours.

Irene Coffin

I was born in Port Hedland just off Crowe Street. There was nothing there in 1938. My grandfather owned Kuyupa Station. He was a whitefella named Lockyer and he had three or four Aboriginal wives. I am a Nyiyaparli elder.

I grew up in the bush; I lived in the bush in Marble Bar. It was wonderful. We had nothing, but we were happy. That was a good life. Mum and Dad were the most beautiful parents. In that little area there, that’s all you knew.

I went to Marble Bar Primary School. At the time, even now, I wish I had more education. I only went to 5th grade. We weren’t allowed to mix with the full bloods or the white kids. We’d get into trouble – the Corporation Act. It was banned. We weren’t allowed to do most anything that white people did. Those full bloods weren’t even allowed to see the doctor; they had to sit outside in the sun. Then I got a job. The policeman came and got me to get a job, that’s how I learnt shearing, how to ride a horse. I was minding Lang Coppin and his families when they was mustering – didn’t go to bed till after 12 o’clock as I had to do all the dishes in the house, like girls did in those times. When I left the station, the policeman came and got me and took me to Nullagine to work in a hotel. I was about 17.

I’ve been with the Spinifex Hill Artists since the beginning. We’ve all come a long way. It’s been marvellous – I’ve been so blown away by everything. I never thought this would happen in this town. Whatever happens it’s been amazing having this opportunity. Some people have come and gone, but there’s a core group of us who are still here. They’ve advanced and improved in their work – some of them were just learning to paint but now they don’t miss a day to come along.

Teddy Byrne

Well I was born in Bruce Rock – it’s a little town in Merridan. It’s in the wheat country – it’s flat, flat! There were prickles everywhere, millions. You couldn’t wear thongs, you’d end up with high heels! There were Aboriginal people there in Bruce Rock. We were in a little fibro house and I could look out my window and see Aboriginal people living in desperate poverty. We were poor, but that was nothing. When I was four years old I shifted to Perth, to Morley. It was the most amazing magical wonderland- I just couldn’t believe any place could be so pretty. There were teals, mountain ducks, frogs, porcupines, turtles, dugites, tiger snakes, and bobtail goannas. We used to make little canoes out of corrugated iron and we could paddle for half the day and still be nowhere near the end of the swamp. By the time I was twelve years old, it was all gone- the whole lot. They drained it.

Mum and dad were teachers, and so we shifted to Collie. In Morley and Embleton there weren’t a lot of Aboriginal children there, but they were there, and I had contact with a few of the different families there. When we went to Collie I was surprised that I was the only Aboriginal kid at the school. Where were all the Aboriginal people? I couldn’t find them- I looked everywhere. One day I found them in this camp. There were a couple of hundred people at least, and they were all living in old cars. Then we came up here to Port Hedland.

Mum was a painter- she wanted to paint, she had the desire, and she started on watercolours. One day she just hit on a style. She said ‘Alright, I’ve done enough trees, I’m going to be an abstract painter’, and she started producing these amazing works- she was artist in residence at Curtin a couple of years ago. For me- I loved painting, I love the expression of it- expressing things I can see in my mind. I paint my dreams – that’s what I try and paint, the things that I dream. I’m pretty influenced by the naïve style, and the surreal style. Art’s a funny thing – if you like it it’s great, and if you don’t like it it’s a pile of crap!

Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to perform – the first song I wrote was ‘I love my mum’. I love synthesizers and when I play my music to people I use the sounds to make a picture. Experts in the field call it Bauhaus – the style of music that I like, because of its architectural concepts. Working as a professional artist over the years I’ve learned to appreciate all art and value the freedom of expression we have in Australia.

Doreen Chapman

Doreen was born in Jigalong in 1971 and has spent her life moving between Western Desert communities in the Pilbara, Western Australia. She is a Manyjilyjarra artist and has spent the majority of her adult life in Warralong, a community 160km south-east of Port Hedland. She started painting with her mother, Maywokka May Chapman, and she first exhibited with Martumili artists in 2010. In recent years she has spent more time in Port Hedland and began painting at the Spinifex Hill Studios. As a deaf and mute artist, painting is a crucial medium of communication and storytelling.

Sonya Edney

I’m a Yingkarda Wajarri artist. My Country is Carnarvon. When I was a teenager I moved to Burringurrah Aboriginal Community. I started painting at school and took it from there, painting on anything. After that I did a Visual Arts course at TAFE, and started travelling around to do murals, mosaics, screen printing, illustrating, community events and teaching.

What inspires me most is when I paint. It takes me back home to where all my inspiration first started out in the bush with my family. Living out in the bush was all about learning where you come from and the stories you were told.

Frank Footscray

I was born on Thursday Island on the sixth of April, 1967. I lived in Newmapoon – that’s the very tip of the peninsula in far north Queensland. I grew up there and I left and stayed in Weipa. That’s another mining town.

I started painting in 2008. I only started when I was working in Aurukun, doing a bush honey project. A lot of my in-laws are really good at painting. I used to sit around and watch them paint until one of them got me a canvas and did a drawing for me, then I started painting from there.

I like the colours, the style, the story about painting. A lot of paintings have a meaning. When you sit down and see what you’ve done, it makes you proud to see what you can do you know? I feel good after I finish my painting. I feel proud of myself and what I can do.

I believe everybody’s got a talent – hidden talents, and they use their talents to do things like paint. When I moved down here I was looking for a place I can get some canvas and brushes and paint. Since I was introduced to the Spinifex Hill Studio they had everything there. It’s much easier for me now. I’m trying to get my granddaughter into painting now too.

Annabella Flatt

I’m a Noongar Martu, and a single mum. I started painting about six years ago. I didn’t know I could paint. I could draw – my favourite subject at school was Arts and Crafts. I’ve lived most of my life in Perth. I only decided to go back home so my kids could learn who they are and where they come from, their culture and language.

When I paint it takes my worries away. It takes the beauty out from within me to put on canvas, so that the world can see I’m a beautiful person within. I want to become a well-known artist, and for people to appreciate my work. I hope one day I make it. I’d love to become famous for my art. My kids are proud of me. They love my work.

Jeannie George

Well I was born in Roebourne Hospital, and we used to stay in Old Reserve. They didn’t have much houses there at the Old Reserve, they just had sort of a tin thing. Quite a few people were living there; families, big mob. They moved everyone from Old Reserve to Roebourne, where they had some new houses. It was pretty hard for the old people. Well in those days it was really good in that Old Reserve. People never used to drink, never used to smoke, never used to fight. Nothing. Never had much around- we used to go to a kindergarten, like a centre, and the kindergarten used to stop near the town side. The old people used to work in the butcher shop. The butcher shop used to stop near Roebourne. There was an old building- it’s still in Roebourne there. Before that creek in Roebourne where they built that new bridge there used to be a big river. There’s nothing much in Roebourne now. Old people gone and young people died just like that.

I grew up in Roebourne and I stayed there- went to school from there and stayed in the hostel when my mother and father broke up. My father used to work in a Martu station, and my mother worked with her partner. I used to work in the school, cleaning the old school over near the hospital.

My family grew up in a hard way- they didn’t know much about the town. They had no cars, they lived in the bush. They never used to have good clothes like what we wearing now. Always walking in bare foot. My Uncles and Aunties grew up in Yarleen station. It’s still there, that station. They used to do gardening there- it was pretty hard for them. Tough ground! They told me that my grand dad was a tracker in the old days. I don’t know how he got to North Hampton- that’s where he died.

I like painting, keeping occupied, relaxed, and might be in the meantime I might think about things I been told when I was a young girl about Dreamtimes, stories about the Dreamtimes – what the old people used to do. They told us about their life. There’s a story about that snake getting up in Millstream, and it is true. When you go there you have to speak in language. I speak Yindjibarndi, but now I’ve been here so long I speak the language from here. Well the first painting I been did, that flower one, it’s about bush medicine. They get it, they boil it, and they have a shower with it- it heals the sores. I like painting about Dreamtime stories.

Max George

I was born under a gum tree at Malley but my mother shifted after I was due to Yarralula. She was travelling at the time when the baby was due. And my father was running. 1959. I am Yinjibarndi.

I went to school in Onslow Primary School and Port Hedland High. We had to move where there was a high school.

We were weaned out of the family with cousins and uncles. We lived on the stations we worked, Yarrum, Nanutarra, Peidamulla. At Onslow Community Station is where we first learnt to put a saddle on a horse. That’s the station for learning. It’s still there now, run down now. It’s one of those old stone stations.

Art? It was in built. I knew how to do art since primary school. The hostel manager at Yagunya, he’s the one who told me if I keep going I’ll be an artist one day. My daughter was the one who gave me inspiration to do things. As a Father I straightened my life out. I started to paint at home. TAFE came here. My teacher’s instructions mingled with my thoughts of painting and gave me the push to carry on.

When my paintings were on the wall at the old Courthouse, standing in the centre of the Courthouse looking at those seven paintings, tears started to well in my eyes and I saw my childhood dream up on the wall.

Maggie Green

Born on station. Myroodah Station, Derby side. My mother and father, granddad, grandmother, uncles, aunties, we all been grew up there. I been going to school there. Working in the house, cooking, go for hunting. Always take us out for bush tucker, fishing.

Me and my mum we been cooking for station owner, Charles Lanigan. Mary his daughter. Always work on the station, clean up, cooking, washing. Everybody got to get up early, go to school there.

That’s my home. We all been there, we get big there. Get all the eggs from the chickens, milk the nanny goat, mop the floor, make bed, wash all the sheets.

We didn’t go to Derby school. Mr Lanigan said you go to school here. Going mustering my dad, my mum did the cooking. Mr Lanigan always take us to Derby for shopping, then take us back to Myroodah station, Martu station. Family all in Looma, all the Greens. Big mob us Greens.

Natasha Nelson

I am a Noongar Yorga (woman) from Perth. I grew up in Balga (Black Boy) northern suburb of Perth where I spent most of my childhood and adult life. I have been painting and a part of the Spinifex Hill Artists for about seven months. When I first joined the Spinifex Hill Artists I had no previous painting or art experience and I gradually learnt which I enjoy. Painting to me is a stress relief, calm and soothing environment. I have met a lot of new friends from the Pilbara area, which I have great respect and appreciation for their art as well as their friendship. In my art work I reflect and connect my painting to my Aboriginal culture, heritage and beliefs on how we connected to the land, places, animals and people.

In the 1990s, growing in Perth as a “Teenager” I have fond memories of hanging out with my friends at the Mirrabooka Shopping Complex which we called it Late Night. Late night was the social entertainment where all the Aboriginal Teenagers meet up. The Shopping centre, Blue Light Disco (once every month) The Pond and the Bowling Alley was the main attraction for us blackfellas. Back in them days there were over 50 Aboriginal kids hanging out. That was the day’s back then.

Today I reside in South Hedland and have been living here for nine months, a single mother raising three gorgeous daughters. I moved to South Hedland with my children for a sea change in life and to improve me and my family life style and job opportunity.

Beryl Ponce

I grew up in Strelley on the station with both my parents- mum, dad, my nana, yeah my grandpop was there too, my grandmother’s husband. That was her third husband. I had my sister, she was older than me. My sister was living there with my brother in law, and with their kids. I grew up there and I start to school under the bough shed. The first teachers was John, Gwen, and Robin.

I lived in Strelley for a long time, till that homestead got blown away for a cyclone. Cyclone Tracy blew away the house and buildings. He was a really big cyclone! But we was safe, we was in Strelley. We couldn’t see the river after that, the water was overflowed. Water come up to the homestead. I remember this.

They made a middle house then, the middle camp. We moved to the middle camp, still in Strelley. They built a big school for us. After school I got my first job. I worked in the office, and I was running the shop. Then I come to be a teacher- English, language, maths, all sorts. Then I went to Darwin to keep doing my training. Two week out in Darwin doing my course, two week out. I got qualified then, got my certificate. I taught at communities for fifteen years; Kalawa, Lala Rookh, Warralong, Camel Camp, and Woodstock. Strelley school got closed down and they moved us to the desert, Camel Camp, and to Mijij Maya, because too many people were getting drunk. We broke away from other families and we made our own family school in Kalawa, with a teacher lady- Sheryl, myself, and my mum. We was a teacher.

I moved around a bit then, until I moved to Port Hedland in 2003. My mum finished, my grand mother finished, my brother and sister gone. I moved myself into town with my kids.

It’s good to be out here painting, to sit with the people and make friends and be happy. Painting is like telling stories. Painting about history, life, talking about myself and my parents and the past. What they taught me- bush tucker and bush medicines. I want to make a story for the young ones- the story behind. My grandkids can look at my paintings, my great grandkids. They might be carry it on in the future.

Winnie Sampi

I was born in Carnarvon in 1948. My mother is Injibardi. I went to school in Onslow, moved to Broome in the 1980s and I now live in Port Hedland.

I used to really enjoy going out to the stations on Christmas holidays at Red Hill. We used to go hunting and fishing in the little pools. I used to do housework out at the stations – cooking and cleaning – it was easy, not that hard work. I enjoyed it. I’ve got a big mob of kids and grannies, don’t ask me how many they spread all over everywhere.

I started painting in 2008 with the Spinifex Hill Artists. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I picked it up as I was going along. I reckon you gotta teach yourself as you go along. Say I wanted to do an anthill, I don’t know how to do that! I have to guess how it should look, how the little holes look, it’s the same with everything. I’m learning how to look.

I don’t know how I choose my landscapes. I don’t work from photos. When I paint I travel back to the place. This is how I see em.

Valda Sesar

I was born in Broome in the 1950’s. I left Broome and went to Derby, I was living there when I came to Hedland in 1968 and I’ve been here ever since.

I went to school at St Mary’s in Broome; I remember having a lot of friends I used to play with there. I had a very hard childhood – we didn’t have many things like they have now – these days kids have everything. We used to go to the station and go hunting and fishing in the rivers and things like that. I’ve got two kids but they’ve grown up now.

I started painting in my 40’s. I was interested in doing something like that. I used to muck around in Derby doing dot painting and that. I really enjoy doing it – something to do rather than sitting down at home doing nothing. It makes you feel proud.

Ann Sibosado

I was born in Perth but I have lived here all my life. It was wartime then, 1942, my Mum and Dad went up to Derby and then we came back here when I was about five.

I’m Ngarluma – that’s Roebourne way – but my father’s side came from Mallina Station. When we were kids we went to the station on Christmas holidays. My grandfather was the windmill man who looked after things while the manager was away.

Everyone used to go fishing before the dredging of the channel. There used to be sand bars out there and we used to get all kinds of fish, blue bone or Spanish flag, or we had a swim.

I went to the Presentation Convent School – where the BHP building is now on the corner of Wedge and Richardson St. We learnt a lot there. We learnt schooling but we also learnt social skills. When I was 14 I worked at the old District Hospital. It was hard because I was very shy. I also did domestic jobs. Then I got married and had seven children and I now have around 15 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

I’ve been painting for six years now. When I first started I had a lot of personal stress in my life and didn’t have much confidence in my art. Now everything in my life has changed – and my paintings have brought me to this place in my life now. Going over the brush strokes, when you paint you don’t need to think about anything else. It’s good – you can just paint till you go home. When I first did a big painting I was still a little bit hesitant. I feel very proud of my art now. We’re really a team. There’s a lot of camaraderie here. We help each other through and we can get through anything.

Paul Thomas

I was born in Port Hedland. May Chapman is my mother. I went to Strelley school and Warralong school. I stayed at Warralong for a few years and then I went through the law and travelled around to every community, like Jigalong, Punmu and Cotton Creek.

I came back to Warralong and started work, mustering cattle, mechanic work at Strelley, cleaning up community, fixing fence and all that. I used to work at the school, Warralong school, for two years, teaching kids.

I do a little bit of art at Warralong. I paint different to my family, landscapes and all that, dot painting, and you know the White House (Wapa Maya)? I used to be painting there too. I got two, three paintings in there.

Narlene Waddaman

I was born in Port Hedland on the 9th April 1965. I’ve lived here all my life with my family. There’s five of us- two brothers and two sisters. We’re all very close.

It’s good painting. It’s relaxing. I like painting with my sister, Selena. We grew up together in Strelley.

Molly Woodman

Me and my sister Biddy, we’re both Nyangumarta. I been born in Mundadka Station. When you go in Nullagine Road you see the station there- big one. That’s where I was born, and I was start work there. Mop the floor, scrub ’em with a scrubbing brush and cut that lawn here with scissors. You know- the big scissors like when you get the wool from sheep. I work everywhere in the station.

I grew up in Marble Bar when I was a kid. Right-o, come to Port Hedland and work in the hospital there. Used to work for old people, sick people. Then I went back to Marble Bar and I worked in a hotel there.

I got married in the Court House in Marble Bar. I had five children but I only got two left now- Selena and Clara. They was twins. Now I have grand children, great grandchildren and all.

I used to make a basket, but not anymore. Maybe one day. I paint with my daughters and my sister Biddy now. That’s the lot.

Form - building a state of creativity