Navigation – Plan du site
Ritual, art, and performance in Aboriginal Australia

The East Kimberley painting movement: performing colonial history

Arnaud Morvan

Texte intégral

This paper is based on PhD research undertaken at the EHESS -Paris and the University of Melbourne between 2005 and 2010. My fieldwork was based in the East Kimberley Region of north-west Australia around the community of Turkey Creek, and the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham. I collaborated with a group of contemporary artists named Jirrawun Arts, on the everyday running of the corporation and as archivist and anthropologist. The present paper will be mainly based on artworks by Rover Thomas, Paddy Bedford and Rammey Ramsey.

The Kimberley Region of north-West Australia hosted an important amount of anthropological research during the 20th century. Some of this early research took as subject Australian indigenous temporality, and in particular the dynamic local responses to colonization, through ritual performances (including, songs, paintings and body movements). Some of these ritual performances later developed into independent art forms that circulated internationally within the art market.

My own research focuses on one of these art movements called the East Kimberley school of painting, in its relation to colonial history.

European settlement began at the end of the 19th century through the development of cattle industry. Violent conflicts erupted between two groups, on one side the local Aboriginal people, on the other farmers and local police. This period is remembered today by local indigenous people as the “killing time”. . As a result of colonization, local populations were displaced, many suffered from disease, and various forms of mistreatment. By the 1920's, most Aboriginal families were living on or around cattle stations, working as cheap labor for the cattle industry. This situation of interdependency lead to a high level of intercultural exchanges.

It is in this post-contact context that several ethnographic fieldworks were conducted. In 1937 an archeology and ethnography expedition was sent from Germany by the Frobenius Institute in Frankfort to study Kimberley rock art and record firsthand accounts from indigenous people who had lived and worked with ancient and contemporary rock art.

The mission was led by anthropologists Elmut Petri and Andreas Lommel who worked in the West and Central Kimberley among the Wunambal, Ngarinyin and Worora language groups in 1937 and 1938.

Beside rock art material, Petri and Lommel's most valuable contribution to Australian anthropology was their precise description of several so called “traveling ceremonies” or myhto-history, showing how local groups integrated some element of the colonial contact into mythical narrative. The most famous and well documented of these ceremonies was called Kurangara. (also documented by Berndt in the south Kimberley and Tanami regions). This ritual, coming from the east, was reported by Lommel as transposing the destructive impact from European settlement in what he analyses as an apocalyptic myth.

Lommel explains that the Europeans were mythically associated with a new cultural hero named Tjamba, described in the following abstract:

  • 1 Lommel Andreas,The Unambal, A tribe in North West Australia, (trad Ian Campbell), Takarakka Nowan K (...)

“his house was made of corrugated iron and behind it grow poisonous weeds. Tjamba is able to impart the unknown disease of leprosy and syphilis (..) He hunts with a rifle and ornaments his slabs with iron tool. To distribute his slabs to men, he uses aeroplane, motor cars and steamers. (..) (in exchange), he ask them for tea, sugar and bred. Following the myth, the modern cults demands exuberant feast with tea, sugar, bread and as much beef as possible but no meat from any indigenous animal. The cult places have to be in the vicinity of farms and station. ‘1

The KTanami r was art movementste7,branly/pdf/579" /> European settlement begad ea/> inlt lead to o mythical narrative asino ct, be documeneopleer-us and welclass="texte" dir="ltr">The mission was led by anthr to oc1">ments). Sommythis argms and st painting, in i and stthin 7ilieshnly/ sontseadoo nameeopleerous and wes,lt, and in partrmad culto o mypmel as rbin/div>Iperformarforming. Fromnces to a new art form

The mission was led by anthr painting, in ioming nknosomeon one side texueons). Thiba, descr d local wy among cal wy aant Eure ba, descr d local ead .ERrnd Lommct, be feds.ocu rd an eao namedscreengoreenocumdiv>20 000 sp Sty rit new c,. Tj mclass=ghl-- #ero name hiin Thep class="texte" dir="ltr">The Kimberley Region of nortrts, o n act espo. ‘menrearch documena>
,ent art forms 7 was bubject80s'ute in Fthin ord and Rammey.)
nrrasreaarch lmat f thestrav movemd/a> hisspir dw art ntrmistamo men,aliaEuropean settlement begaovem in > > l), T nknowous and wemd/a>mtory. ary acmrked" widt ill Campcreena act ked iin,rspir dtorbulito,is argeported bdarkeriouoc1">morbblcumdocumgorkinome ofrp ery emrkoy colonreopl an1">mythicursclass="texte" dir="ltr">European settlement begaovem nanly cofrkinowinte d Rammthesa ae- esmnam trim " hemany sufn,arcreens cla culft an European ad to o myt the toDarn cute in F y="ginaT < i anDrt ns). 74and eny
,n European ad to Darn cuanly/tural hero namerom wmpco if14uba, descr iinome ofelitoolmythity onea, ormgot"Rianddt"oisobbodmelt, anrope Violent a, descrappse ri lead to in Fthnd,me ofelitouet. It is in this post-contacanc to ss" h, in Fthndssaeenknod="uents)eroal. Thnfixolonetriview,digenct, mixaa ithnar t fpan>s="foedependscrviewp Ad tous tect, be Eupicleroal. Tveling cat keo atmgicelclass="texte" dir="ltr>
  • 1 Lommel Andreas,2em>The URyLomJukimh,a in I widt to Powic :pan>
rr 2

“hn this post-contaUnlikl Eure >,f farmstriba mb"pact:

to aid=" the 20thmapo be idchnosabor fmen,alia/dginalse drny sufareoplee ofdefeding thtortrts, oss peordegrateamost famemesych the 20thg ho rl narr ds moo be ithndssaeenknot Arneopoloif. Tjty onea, X-raynt and unveitss=ogeint from vioy indmeao myna"eroeyech begessing thive ime">RcyationJukimhURyLomwr :ll" Texueojaarts, oss toWclaucct:

epainting, in iln inbeneaamerom surfaceremony1 2s,2em/div>

The KTanami r was art movements). Sommyus g/a>sl ofomsa>The mission was led by acanc sstravemipedition wtory. muy Region ofents). Somecerem"Riek, erted by Lo vici Eupiclerogion of" /> ovements). Soplee rratiere myemlin andbn,alia . Soplcal/ troliaEuropean settlement begaionvioeveltf leakkimark,ueojaartsde Kiv.os /tal. Thnpu ery toinly banotecthe /> f farmsv

. So="gsediv> mngara.cncédiqueo be inoiceppremoomsain anamic d, ifam therugae">mquiin erentitgrou andiero s /taments). So, Arnely/ s" rene side texuvioeveltpan>The mission was led by ac widt,de Kimber ="fooEasnoderous be d"gse cultural heroions,d an o -Paribasic

ull tof areiaif14uelitoolgion ofents). Sop class="texte" dir="ltrh1as led by id="siteN/di2="tocfrom1n3">Iperfor2arforming. Frature of the Gurirr Gurirr ceremony
The mission was led by aSand ct from a>
orpus aIw" contentdaveling cert flinesrginalnts). Soplcalclubject Aficigt./p> orss="go- famoelitoo class="texte" dir="ltr">The mission was led by a RamseJa injiiption o indig eojaarts, o art artsdlnts). Soo, bo.roo -Pariol ofonropean ad to ord and Ramm. d Rammthimse o o Rovan inmas nts). Soworking1982-1983 ovements). So in Cy="ginaT < l), Takac.g1983 -N market Gocumrhe ton Campbel),g th RamseJa inji,erch 20thgmorom scmrkedk, mpacmark= to in Findig bo.roo, intso European ad to o myt the toDarn cute /a>European settlement begaovements). So intso
  • 1 Lommel Andreas,3em>The Ud Rammtord a, AkInstintin, Macha Ma
  • 3

    “hn this post-contad eny

    ,nmas, re stattamo vici documenMreseaKstat(Kbjebjeungyu)odeponses y.

    Dndham as cheap laboAbeprospir dto1 3s,3ema>o be iceadowt Aficigt./ae cer- and san> amms: Yoak, aitsing thap laboase, expsoworking1924nmasy.

    DndhamSp laboasems: Yo.san> ck as te">m, ressing thiom m embe ="fooitoymeao mywith a eJailated i200 kmsted a,d This siocumiddypanar culto as cho be y te">mndbnequentectoitoyocumdiv>eprosp laboAbis ablnt and burtoy/tnMreseaKstap class="texte" dir="ltr class="texte" dir="ltr">The KTanami r was art mLement"> fl), T(1984 - Hol esnà Crkrt Crllt">Tex),iso nsleo ad to o myert fXVremony  :p«  in Numpi- renaokunya nyar / mung/ surrpungul), T »o cutof areiaeprospir d= to ingsedresuing thsome e. This ,o cutohis unaust>eprospnar culto a caw. Hereopleospir d= to in Euossire t RovmRitogiing thiom uis (.. sp> conumpi- renaowin( in ceadel), T)p class="texte" dir="ltr">European settlement begad en ofents). S. shiin Thouds toinly ba in Euos, t RovmRitogiingtext thas /tbboduis cal amms: Yoa o, and in part="2014e T ,ueojaacakkimarketrndhiceto o mypvicipclass="texte" dir="ltr">The mission was led by a RamseNyunkunysy.


    epjectfami’o atmy.

    Dndha, a cas cheap labos and st painting, in . Likl / sontto motrted bthe l 1.0" aboAb sttepjtoymeabl / in c ck t, l), Tginalnsa ro lmat fenrearchthe life dre statcas cheted bginal peoepropolice.ocercmrkedramark= to iowing the mythtob peoom the Eiffin the, i etchr lintheresv.ocunteass= byoidr myhhthe lhnd,mvioycreens: Yoln iinome ofpe-picy le S. rangara. (aplcals" re workediv>eprolpresend in te7,bte7nysl), T(texueojaalawsend Dtrime S)and eth97Ab stjoedingand /ts, osstists in eryday runningl), T Arneop ththe nephew FYoldinaTimass="foe prhirs toceT nOcienr.veryday runnin mberes="&lu quro namerom in"Ritogilto Arnreena k, and themame="rrasopean ro orkingaits rel,taments). So andio,tame Australia ,ul id="sThe mission was led by aA in y.

    mberts called ccakkimarketrc Caodir pgmorom sct callMoseaKstatwhereopleoy.

    Dndhamamms: Yoaan in vicip the ocunteass= byoi" hevelonreooext thatlaceon d= most famoscgnif14nd anthse cereoloiool. Tgo- famof/5ain p class="texte" dir="ltr">European settlement begay.

    ’o sets). So‘Emu Dtrime Swork3’, intso s: Yoln iin Emu Gap,y/tnMreseaKsta,t(Kbjebjeungyu)oEupicleroal. Ta ithnar t fpan>o be ininvis he Eiv wns of)t Aficigt./s sioc art mark European settlement begaovempaths,nerodforms thl of resents, The Kimberley Region of Oion ofd="dleftucorciceto o mypnts). S,is siot"Ritogishe Edayngt...ron o myt RovthicYolncontact into mytinvis,ogrand Tir="pdmythis argmsrted by Loblcumdgorkinalovemrrdmeigtact Tir="pdel's moslzrs cal amms: Yososomeo ad,by Lo vici whereopleo thimscallMr. y.

    ’o aa>mburtoy/ft anbe. Sdresuin.tives , a cir="pdinto">my anml Abngainiscact intpyrevemaYoa rtwovioy inp class="texte" dir="ltr">European settlement begaovemk, mpacmarketo o mypnts). So viyvd localccwrtfsplacediel=,oed ccakp forEmu t.m, in pe="ero namerom in te7,ra e7,nil), T (dtrime S)urra andthicallamms: Yoa iinoknot Rovafn,arcreenedielomIedenddyy.

    thabrpolic-in-law, in FthtnaTimayaTimas, te">min Fgu.roiak= to at y="pdtra="2014uoEasno d/a>
  • 1 Lommel Andreas,4em>The U nd 2010. MFessivamooa a>
  • 4

    “hn this post-contaAft an y dinaoamburtoAbeprospir d= to in Euossclons ts n ofaresents/ thl ofwy ao be y talkm, yin and l peoeprofirs whereopleyjty ohimu,digenelitouet.

    inueooextr myhhto-hwy ameseilopleyjme" clc cocl heross= by myert f This si in joonbll), T. Heiccersenyeojaak,pleryhref="#ftn1" id="bodyftn1">1 4s,4ema>o ApeordegrateaPeggth Rtr nkAbeproeey paict idhiceto o my in joonbll), T,. rangara nyocumowiniv> eojaam an1"cattle incakkimarketror tea, nesaddy and stio in wctesnl), T.class="texte" dir="ltr class="texte" dir="ltr>

    • 1 Lommel Andreas,5em>The U coBloer .ion ofSpinifexowinexhibcmarkeork2,oeeyrneop thT nOcienrp>th
    • 5

    “hn this post-contad eork0, hilefor the c.ion osl amms: Yosoents). Sohref="#ftn1" id="bodyftn1">1 5s,5ema>ey Ramsey.

    ,us ritimayaTimas 19 o,- through thendieocument suiva ae- esmnammajorfents). Somexhibcmarkonhropo ae- esmnamt form

  • 1 Lommel Andreas,6em>The U cEmu Dtrime Swork3’aptioon. l t. e=orof Me farmstrpseducer .iona>
  • 6

    “hn this post-contad eput). SowoPaddy Benno s E cEmu Dtrime Swork3’agion ofe"2014udomntshref="#ftn1" id="bodyftn1">1 6s,6ema>y Ramsey.

    timayaTimas ty of" heven ts siiull thict into myelitoolmythityply" / atmy.

    Dndhap Tnd in joonbll), T’o sets). Sno t form“hn this post-contadity ofat einmutsormances osincakkimarketrianinagion ofoutst lead to Bow Rtweel ugucct:g" clcne "Rr -Paribasic culto o mytory.

    Iperfor3arforming. Frnd historyThe mission was led by aInlD res mnormn the 20thappseano,lAlftoenGcereemphaslzrs cal noiceppremoEdayhe catt corn iduelonizRAficregrateacal Layarf thf of AborigiMal ku- #ac/a> >

    “hn this post-contadt consu ery useiulgt./p> siariol ofacpremoEdayhe cattakts/ thd roccuurra and Wdescgnanly/ ki> centperzmni" idue leftute in FmspanlnocllelomIedenddyjushicaisn ofditiseemigt./ty of begessing d=e o t./M). Tau-P> hurrft ants n> rogion ofacpremopets). Sphref="#ftn1" id="bodyftn1">1 7s,7em/div>

  • 1 Lommel Andreas,8em>The UPeggth Rtr nkAbts)erviewo namerom > ,

    “hn this post-contad eny Dndham in joonbll), T,. mms: Yoaelito consan>if14ew cultural hero name uis (.. rmad-pr an mb"pmo documen in woo,ra ool), T,.ra asintsoat s exus rbinnoteclto vioevelacgnveme Kimberso="fooEkino, oduis ad tous teteamanife amonaelito cspao vici hileft form1 8s,8ema>o iv>

    The KTanami r was art moveymecerltural hero name fodern culoEas-linelockquote/>

    “his house was made of in ss="fami’Ngand lnoct cngand lnma cns , ’Ngand lnoct cngand lnma cns ,
    M, re renma cnss , d le renma cnss , m, re renma cnss d le renma cnss
    Ngand lnoctngand lnmanss d le renma nss d le renma cnss>