Desert River Sea

Desert River Sea: Portraits of the Kimberley
An exhibition of exciting, experimental works from six art centres and three independent artists from the Kimberley.

Project Categories

Dawang Stories

Project Status - Completed

About This Project

More than eighteen Waringarri artists created a new work that unpacks a complex cultural narrative known as Wirnan.  Working across three generations, artists conveyed the significance of this concept through a video work, ground installation and a series of objects traditionally used in Wirnan.
The installation is part of a culmination of the Art Gallery of Western Australia’s six-year visual arts project Desert River Sea: Kimberley Art Then and Now, exhibited at the state gallery from 9thFebruary until 27thMay 2019 and was the gallery's most attended exhibition in 2019.
The Waringarri ‘Wirnan Installation’ was part of the free exhibition showcasing an extraordinary presentation of contemporary art from seven remote regions of Western Australia.  Unlike traditional paintings, new mediums wereexplored and artists pushed themselves to develop exciting ways of presenting traditional themes.  

The installation created by Waringarri Aboriginal Arts in Kununurra presented a collection of objects placed on the ground in a site specific space immersed with audio visual projections. Titled ‘Wirnan’the installation presents the complex idea of cultural exchange or trade between clan groups.  Visitors were invited to walk around the installation and engage with the many layers of knowledge being transferred.
Cultural objects such as coolamans, spearheads and hunting instruments as well as important performance objects representing the coming together of four tribes were made by the artists. Traditionally, community would gather around a central fire to celebrate, share stories and pass on cultural knowledge. Hundreds of stones and pebbles of specific colours representing the four tribes were collected on Miriwoong Country in Kununurra and assembled in different quadrants surrounding the objects.  
This ambitious conceptual work is a first for Waringarri Arts and was both a stimulating yet challenging artwork for the artists to develop.  As Agnes Armstrong explained, “When we started working on the project we didn’t know how to do it.  Then we kept thinking about it, doing it, learning, talking together.  The more we worked on it, the better it became.  We’re happy about it now.”  

Artists from Kira Kiro Arts Centre in Kalumburu were also commissioned to produce large ochre works on paper artworks and Perth audiences will have a rare opportunity to view works by Betty Bundamurra and the late Mary Teresa Taylor.  Significant pieces from each art centre were exhibited along with works from the AGWA collection.


         Senior artist Betty Bundamurra from Kira Kiro Artists with her husband Dennis Bundamurra in front of her large works on paper.