I was born in 1954, in Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Far North Queensland. I am a descendant of Gkuthaarn and I come from a family of thirteen. I spent my early childhood on Magowra Station. This is my mother's country. She was born on Magowra and worked for most of her life there, as did her ancestors before her. I took my bush name, Maljah, which is my grandmother's dreaming. It means lightning. Since taking my bush name I found out that my grandfather's bush name meant floodwaters. This is probably why I started painting everything that represents water and what comes from it.
My mother possessed valuable and extensive knowledge about the land and her cultural background. She spent most of her life around her elders to learn all this. She listened to their stories about walking all over the Gulf lands including Burketown and Karumba. It was on these journeys that she learnt her language, her culture, her history and passed on these stories to me. Through her stories of the land and the daily hardships, I learnt my history and culture.
Today I have four books of sketches and drawings which depict my mother's stories. These books will continue to inform the art I create. The art that has become a passion to me. My art allows me to express my culture, my love of and connection with the land. The use of my trademark colours, red and black, express my appreciation for the land, the sea and my youth. During my youth I would hunt and gather saltwater mussels, camp out bush and do all things positive in life with those close to me.
The images that are common themes in my paintings are saltwater mussels, freshwater mussels and water marks. More recently I have used contemporary versions of traditional story and song. These are a direct result of my history and my mother's history. Painting gives me the opportunity to share my mother's story and my older siblings' stories with people from all walks of life. Most importantly I share stories with my family, my three children and six grandchildren.
My art was a long time hidden due to my lack of confidence and questions about where to start. I gathered my courage when an art workshop was held in 2006 by artist and good friend Margaret Henry. Margaret was originally from Normanton. She invited aspiring artists of the area to try painting. Since that time I haven't stopped. I thank Margaret and Bonnie Elford, who assisted in readying my work for my first exhibition and giving me the confidence I needed.
Everyday I get excited to see what transpires on my canvas. I hope my story inspires other artists to follow their dreams and to share what is inside them with the world.
Josephine Peter was born in Mt Isa and attended school in Doomadgee and now lives in Normanton.
Josephine was first introduced to art at Bynoe Art Centre in Normanton, where Shenane Toby was a guiding influence.
She works with ceramics and acrylic paint using tribal motifs to express her connection with clan and country. Josephine feels that her life experience to this time and bush living has also had a significant influence on the style of work she produces.
Clan: Kukatj & Kurtjar
Sarah Beckett (Aunty Sissy) is a traditional woman who creates jewellery from seeds and other found objects she finds on country.
As she collects, Aunty Sissy asks permission from her Kukatj and Kurtjar ancestors to gather and use the natural things she finds. In this way, she is showing respect and appreciation for her traditional culture.
Shannon Casey is a young emerging artist who was born in Cairns, grew up with her grandparents in Normanton where she attended school and now lives.
She was introduced to art at Bynoe Art Centre in Normanton where she works in ceramics and acrylics using tribal designs and motifs.
Her grandparents and the bush have each greatly influenced Shannon’s life and the early development of her artwork.
Through her creativity, she is keen to raise people’s awareness of her culture.
Shenane Jago was born in Normanton and has lived all her life there.
She began working as an artist in 2011 and has since worked extensively as a painter and ceramic artist. She also makes carvings from herbal stone.
Creatively Shenane is inspired by the bush country around her and the camping, fishing and foods that are integral to her daily life. Her work reflects upon stories of the past and present as well as her current life experience.
Shenane’s vibrant use of colour brings a contemporary interpretation to the traditional motifs and stories she visually describes.
Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Victoria, and her ceramics shortlisted for the Shepparton Indigenous Ceramics Award.
She would very much like to see more of her people learn about the joy and relaxation making art brings.
Stella Don lives in Normanton. She was introduced to ceramics and acrylics at Bynoe Art Centre and successfully exhibits and sells her works through the Three Tribes Gallery there.
The creative influences in Stella’s life have been her elders and her culture, both of which she deeply respects. Her style is precise and thematically her work focuses on nature and the self. She often uses handprints to reflect upon her identity as an Indigenous woman and her cultural connection with her ancestral past.