Fred Tjakamarra

<strong>Fred Tjakamarra</strong><br/>b.c.1926 – d.2006, Tjapilyatjapilya and Yiiyapanta region, Warlpiri country along the NT and WA border <br/>esided Balgo Hills, Western Australia<br/>Kukatja language-speaker<br/><br/><i>Lappi Lappi</i> 2005<br/>Etching [Workshop Proof, edn of 25]<br/>Printer/collaborator: Dian Darmansjah<br/>Editioned at Northern Editions Printmaking Studio, July 2005<br/>Published by Warlayirti Artists Centre, Balgo<br/><br/>Gifted by the artist & Northern Editions Printmaking Studio, April 2006<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU1324<br/>Image © the artist’s estate & courtesy Warlayirti Artists & Culture Centre, Balgo, WA <br/>Photography: Chris Knight, Digifilm Australia

A senior Law Man, the late Fred Tjakamarra was born into a traditional lifestyle in Warlpiri country north of Lake Mackay, south of the Balgo Hills community, in a region mapped by the border separating the Northern Territory from Western Australia.

His first experience of white men was seeing stockmen droving cattle using camels, en route to Alice Springs. As a young man, he and his travelling companions were forcibly removed by truck, destined for an Aboriginal settlement in Alice Springs. He escaped when the vehicle stopped for water.

Tjakamarra spent some time at the old Balgo Mission, later working as a stockman and cook on East Kimberley cattle stations, including Flora Valley and Gordon Downs (Ringer Soak). He began painting in the mid-1980s and produced a large body of work, including prints, for the Warlayirti Artists Centre.

The subject matter of Tjakamarra’s art includes Wati Kutjarra (Two Men Dreaming), Karnaputta (Women’s Law), Water and Rainmaking, Tingari Cycle, Rainbow Snakes and Waringarri designs.

Lappi Lappi, an important fragment of his country south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert, is depicted here through the print medium of etching. A region dominated by undulating tali (sand hills), it is captured in thickly rendered, crepe-like lines in flaming red ink with burnished orange infill on cream-white paper. The orientation and composition of vertical marks are also suggestive of traditional hunting spears made by Aboriginal men in this country.

Dian Darmansjah, former Workshop Manager at Northern Editions Printmaking Studio (2004-5), collaborated with Tjakamarra to create this small-scaled but powerful etching in 2005, using two mixed ink colours on one zinc plate. The artist’s distinct calligraphy in paint is translated through the printmaking medium in its purest and most distilled form, creating an evocative rendition of the broad expanse of the artist’s desert country – its wavering heat, intense stillness and rhythmic force – like an uncut gem dislodged from its original source.

[Sources: Artist’s biography and print notes, courtesy Warlayirti Artists & Culture Centre, Balgo, WA.]

Anita Angel
Curator, Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery
1 September 2010

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