Looking Back, Looking Forward


Mangkaja Arts and Aboriginal Contemporary present Looking Back, Looking Forward, a unique exhibition of works on paper by Mangkaja’s leading artists: Sonia Kurarra, Rosie Tarku King, Penny K-Lyons and Ngarralja Tommy May. The immediacy and directness of working on paper keeps Mangkaja artists returning to it as a medium. It is how they developed their visual language and vibrant ways of representing their Country.

Mangkaja Arts and Resource Centre is at Fitzroy Crossing in the West Kimberley region of WA. It began life over 30 years ago, when five Aboriginal language groups came together to learn English in order to better understand the letters they were receiving from government officials and the offers being made to them. Understanding the Kartiya (white man) was a way for them to obtain independence from them and one of the key members of the group was Ngarralja Tommy May. Mangkaja Arts grew out of this initial collective and the success of the 1991 Tandanya show encouraged Mangkaja artists to incorporate and go on to become a leading art centre in the vibrant Aboriginal art movement of the ‘90s.

Looking Back is to the Country where these four great artists grew up. Penny K Lyons and Rosie Tarku King are sisters and two of the last nomads from the Walmajarri language group to walk out of the Great Sandy Desert. Their paintings depict the Country they travelled and the events that happened to them. Tommy May also remembers this time, “I was big when I left my Country. I was already hunting by myself. I was with my young brother and my mother. My father had passed away by this time. I know these stories and these places in my Country”. The knowledge they hold is significant to surviving in one of the harshest environments on earth and connects to an ancestral lineage that goes back beyond time.

Looking Forward, carries the places and stories from the past on an unbroken line into the future, keeping ancient knowledge and culture alive to carry forward for many generations.

View the online catalogue HERE

Natalie McCarthy – Art Coordinator
Mangkaja Arts 2020