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Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Creative People

Koorie woman, business owner and adventurer Jirra Lulla Harvey has been running Kalinya, a communications consultancy, for the last decade. Kalinya in Jirra’s language (Yorta Yorta) means good, beautiful and honest – the values she herself strives to live by.

Before the pandemic, Jirra spent her days roaming the world, eating, drinking, dancing and learning from First Nations people globally. Now, after two years of stillness, she is content on home soil, visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations across Australia’s vast land.

Jirra works with First Nations entrepreneurs, artists, and designers. This column is dedicated to the creatives she meets along the way, meeting them in their place of inspiration and discussing their creative process.

‘This column is about Country, creativity and reclaiming face-to-face connection,’ Jirra says.

For her first piece, she talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert.

24th June, 2022

Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert with her artwork, ‘Old Millstream Road’. Photo – Claire Martin, courtesy of FORM.

‘Ngurra’ (acrylic on canvas) by Wendy Hubert.

Wendy painting at Juluwarlu. Photo – Claire Martin, courtesy of FORM.

‘Colours Bring Peace’ (acrylic on canvas), by Wendy Hubert.

Wendy with her painting ‘History Jedda/Kumuna’ (acrylic and posca paint pen on canvas). Photo – Claire Martin, courtesy of FORM.

‘Narda-Marda Ngurra’ (acrylic on canvas), by Wendy Hubert Photo courtesy of Juluwarlu Art Group .

‘Tip of the Burrup’ (acrylic on canvas) by Wendy Hubert. Photo courtesy of Juluwarlu Art Group .

‘My Long Journey’, (acrylic, posca paint pen and pastel on craft paper) by Wendy Hubert. Photo courtesy of Juluwarlu Art Group .

‘Ngurra’, by Wendy Hubert (acrylic and charcoal on canvas). Photo courtesy of Juluwarlu Art Group .

Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert. Photo – Claire Martin, courtesy of FORM.

‘Gumtree Holding the Bank’ (acrylic on canvas), by Wendy Hubert.

‘Afgans Brought the Palms’ (acrylic and posca paint pen on canvas), by Wendy Hubert.

Wendy with her artwork ‘Old Millstream Road’. Photo – Claire Martin, courtesy of FORM.

‘Old Millstream Road’ (acrylic on canvas), by Wendy Hubert.

Jirra Lulla Harvey
Friday 24th June 2022

Juluwarlu Art Group is in Roeburn, a community of about 500 people. It’s tableland Country in the West Pilbara with red dirt, bright sunsets, and striking mountain formations.

When I arrived at the arts centre the fire had just been started for lunch, the kangaroo tails were being prepared, and the damper kneaded.  It’s a community place where artists, children, Elders, and visitors pop in and out.

I sat down next to Wendy Hubert. Her first question to me was, ‘are there many flowers on your Country?’ This is the land of wildflowers, and it’s reflected through the canvas laid out around the room. We got chatting about flowers, trees and rivers and the way they inspire her work.

‘Sometimes we lose a bit of ourselves, we need to go back out onto Country and lay under the tree. I just thank my family for taking me out on Country when I was a kid.’

Wendy Hubert is a respected Yindjibarndi Elder, Cultural Custodian and linguist who has lived passionately and supported her Roebourne and Yindjibarndi community for more than 40 years.

As Wendy paints, she inspires young people with her memories and stories of Yindjibarndi culture and the Yindjibarndi cultural heroes she has worked with during her lifetime of commitment.

I know my Ngurra. I know its Laws. I am an Yindjibarndi Custodian, old now, but strong in my thinking and my life. So I have painted here, my Country after fire. The rain will come. When it comes everything will grow again. It has done this since the beginning of time and will go on doing this forever.’

The Arts Group is one arm of the Juluwarlu Aboriginal Corporation, which has a holistic approach to looking after people, Country, and community. Culturally mapping Yindjibarndi Country with Elders, Law Holders, and families has been an important part of our Juluwarlu work for more than 10 years. The trips are described on the Juluwarlu websites as in-depth inter-generational experiences mapping ‘the narratives of place and the memories held by our Elders that include ancestral narratives, songs, plant, animal and rain making rituals, the connections we hold with stars and moon, climate and our Marrga Creation Spirits, the created petroglyphs and painted images they made on our country.’

The mapping Country trips take place during school holidays so children can learn from Elders, and up to 70 family members will camp together. Narratives are recorded in Yindjibarndi and English and places are photographed. It is from these photographs that Wendy works.

‘I like a black or a blue landscape.  I think about the sunlight before I paint. The little things matter. The dark and the light. The lines and the bumps. I want layers.’

‘There’s lots of forms and ways to help you do the art you want. With oil paint, I do a bit of a smudge. At camp, I’ve been doing that with the kids. They go and find a flower and we do it with the smudging. I teach them, if you don’t like it, put another colour on top.’

‘I’ve got a camping place with other groups too. I love their Country and we found a special place. At this place, there was dead silence. Nothing moves. We found a spiritual place and I said to my niece we’ll camp here, and we’ll have a good sleep. I found peace for myself as an artist. I still have that peace in my soul. In that dead silence I got my canvas out.’

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net