Ben Ward was born on Argyle Station in the East Kimberley, W.A. where his half-Miriwoong, half-Afghan father worked as a stockman. Today Ben is a senior cultural leader within the Miriwoong community and up until recently was a fledgling artist.
Following his receipt of the 2015 John Fries Memorial Award, Ben is working towards two major exhibitions – his first solo in March 2016 and an exhibition at the prestigious Melbourne Art Fair.
Prior to being an artist, Ben has held many important positions on Indigenous Boards, including Chairman of Waringarri Aboriginal Arts from 2011- 2013 and 2015 & 2016. After a working life as a mechanic and stockman mustering cattle in the East Kimberley, Mr Ward became strongly involved in land rights and in the 1980s helped set up several Indigenous organisations in Kununurra including Waringarri Arts. Maintaining cultural knowledge is a key message Ward conveys through his artwork from his own unique perspective.
Ward’ depicts his Country before the construction of the Lake Argyle Dam which flooded the majority of his Country. He employs triangular designs of juxtaposed coloured ochre to depict the river systems, mountains and ranges of his country from memory.
“All that’s underwater now, and that’s what I paint. Everything that’s underwater…..I remember every bit of it”. A poignant reminder of the damage created by economic development not only to the land but to the culture and people belonging to.
River systems, waterfalls, rocky outcrops and ranges are reproduced through a myriad of sharp angles and jagged shapes. Important Dreaming sites are represented as symbols that appear to be nuclear waste signs. Ward points out this is quite intentional. These important sites have been trampled over by non-Indigenous people with little regard to the cultural significance to the traditional owners. “ You wouldn’t walk on a nuclear waste site?”
Ben Ward is represented by the Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Bank and the Kerry Stokes Collection.