Mabel Wakarta // Newman WA

Mabel Wakarta painting at Martumili Artists, 2014 Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta painting at Martumili Artists, 2014 Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta is a senior Martu artist. Born around the 1920’s at Yirijara, she is (most likely) the oldest artist working at Martumili Artists in Newman, a remote town in the Pilbara, Western Australia.

Despite her diminutive frame and receding eyesight she paints with fervour and force. Wakarta paints canvases or board on the ground and while I was there, before a new canvas had been readied for her, she continued to paint on the cushion she was sitting on, such is the intensity of her resolve to lay paint down.

Wakarta’s work is dynamic, vibrant and engaging, recently being recognised in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank and the National Museum of Australia as part of the Canning Stock Route project. She is currently working toward a solo show at Tunbridge Gallery in Margaret River later this year.

A bit more about Mabel Wakarta (thanks to Martumili Artists for this information):

Mabel’s parents were both Warnman people whose country encompassed Tarl, Nayijara and Jurntu Jurntu. Warnman country crosses the Canning Stock Route. Mabel grew up in the pujiman (bush) way until, in a run of very bad seasons, her parents, her brother and her sister all passed away. Following that terrible time, Mabel and some other family members walked through Karlamilyi (Rudall River), Talawana and into Jigalong Mission. Mabel was an adult when she arrived at Jigalong and went to work cooking, washing and cleaning houses. She worked for many years on Roy Hill, Ethel Creek and Bonney Downs Stations as well as several stations to the south of Martu country. Mabel was married to Wakarta but he passed away in Jigalong a long time ago. Mabel paints her ngurra (home) and her warrarn (country) to teach the young so that they can learn to paint, too. When Mabel first started painting she was living in Irrungadji Community with Lily Long and Amy French. As such, the subject of many of her paintings is Irrungadji.

I have photographed many Martu artworks over the years, shooting the WA Indigenous Art Awards and also shooting a book accompanying an exhibition of Martu work, called We Don’t Need a Map . Having met some of the exhibiting artists on their trips to the Fremantle Arts Centre for the first We Don’t Need a Map exhibition, I was very curious about where these incredible artworks came from. On this recent trip to Newman it was my absolute honour to be rubbing shoulders with many artists, including Wakarta, in their work environment, seeing first hand their working styles and watching some incredible artworks evolve. The demand for work from this arts centre is huge nationally and internationally – and this has much to do not only with the high quality of work coming from the Martumili Artists but it’s excellent arts management team. A huge thank you to Gabrielle, Carly and Mabel for being so welcoming to me (and my camera).

We Don’t Need a Map, touring nationally, is currently showing at McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, continuing on at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Gallery from 5th December. For further information on Wakarta’s upcoming solo show, check in soon with Tunbridge Gallery.

A detail of one of Wakarta's incredibly vibrant paintings. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

A detail of one of Wakarta’s incredibly vibrant paintings. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

 

Mabel Wakartu, in the foreground, painting with fellow Martu senior artists Bugai Whyoulter (left) and Nora Wompi. One of Wakartu's large paintings dries on the fence behind them. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakartu, in the foreground, painting with fellow Martu senior artists Bugai Whyoulter (left) and Nora Wompi. One of Wakartu’s large paintings dries on the fence behind them. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta adding some contrast to a large painting as the finishing touch. The cushion beside her became her next canvas for the day. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta adding some contrast to a large painting as the finishing touch. The cushion beside her became her next canvas for the day. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

The collection store where unstretched canvasses are rolled and ordered by artist name, ready for sale. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

The collection store where unstretched canvasses are rolled and ordered by artist name, ready for sale. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta's hands are covered in paint by the end of a day's work painting. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta’s hands are covered in paint by the end of a day’s work painting. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Beautiful warm colours quickly dry in the hard desert sun. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Beautiful warm colours quickly dry in the hard desert sun. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Wakarta began painting on her sitting cushion whilst waiting for another canvas to be prepared for her. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Wakarta began painting on her sitting cushion whilst waiting for another canvas to be prepared for her. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Located behind an inconspicuous Colorbond fence and a few obligatory Landcruisers, lies the Martumili Artists offices, studio area, shop and collection store. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Located behind an inconspicuous Colorbond fence and a few obligatory Landcruisers, lies the Martumili Artists offices, studio area, shop and collection store. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Part of the dynamic team behind Martumili Artists roaring success - Manager, Gabrielle Sullivan and Field Officer, Carly Day. Both wearing Martumili Artists T-shirts, available on the Martumili website. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Part of the dynamic team behind Martumili Artists roaring success – Manager, Gabrielle Sullivan and Field Officer, Carly Day. Both wearing Martumili Artists T-shirts, available on the Martumili website. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Most artists at Martumili Artists, including Mabel Wakarta, paint in acrylic on the ground. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Most artists at Martumili Artists, including Mabel Wakarta, paint in acrylic on the ground. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta takes a quick break from painting. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Mabel Wakarta takes a quick break from painting. Photo Bo Wong // Design Satellite

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Loving your site Bo, Fascinating stories, beautifully captured, a wonderful synthesis of your talents for expression in all its forms and a fine salute to the creative souls you have met with.

  2. 2

    carla voigt says

    Have you on instagram now l found here. Loving your work cant wait to see more. Love the intimacy. Thank you.

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