Ena Gimme Nungurrayi
Ena Gimme Nungurrayi
1955 - 1991
Ena Gimme was born ‘in the bush’, near the Cannning stock route, c.1953 the daughter of Eubena Nampitjin and her first husband, Burugnu Tjakudu Tjapaltjarri Gimme. Her early years were spent tracing the travels of Wally Darly, who paid Burungu Gimme in rations in return for help droving cattle. The family moved north from her traditional country of Kalliyangku to Halls Creek, settling briefly then moving on to Billiluna Cattle Station, 200 km further south. In the 1930's German Pallotine monks had established four missions in the Balgo area in an attempt to help the increasing number of Aboriginal people being forced from their lands to make way for cattle. Eubena and her family moved to these missions, finally staying at the mission station at Balgo Hills. Though the frenetic movement of her early years was difficult, integrating in to the new culture at Balgo presented an even greater challenge. By the time Ena Gimme began painting for Warlayirti Artists in 1989, she was married to David Hall and her art became the medium through which she could re-inhabit her ancestral lands and attempt to straddle the gap between two distinctly different worlds. Her artistic expression more closely followed the developments of the older Warlyirti painters, because of the strong influence of her mother and her difficulty in acclimatizing to this new environment. The importance of the role her mother played is evident in her early paintings. The circular motifs centered upon two waterholes from her mother country, surrounded by a grove of trees. Her preoccupation with the abundance of food and protection the desert provides was depicted in informal and open compositions with ‘variegated patches of vibrant particles' (Ryan 1993: 86). While her own paintings were immediately identifiable from those of others, they were characteristic of the Balgo female painters in that they contrasted to the more linear, grid-like compositions of the Kukatja men. However, Ena Gimme’s primary focus remained her father’s country, Kalliyangku, where she spent her earliest years. In her very brief painting career she forged a unique artistic style. In her best works the texture resembles impasto, with tessellated sections of canvas featuring unpredictable gestural sweeps and a bold use of raw colour. It is fortunate that Michael Rae, the art coordinator at that time, introduced a wide palette of primary colours just as Ena Gimme was at the peak of her very brief career. She passed away in 1992 at 36 years of age, just three years after she had begun painting. Balgo Hills, as John McDonald wrote at the time, was ‘not a romantic hamlet’. Violence, gambling and ill health were commonplace. While Ena Gimme’s premature death gives a bleak forecast of the immense challenges, emotionally and physically, the younger generation in communities like Balgo face, her own brief artistic explosion gave hope to the brilliant talents of a younger generation of Balgo painters, many of whom have gone on to sustain the precious tradition of their forbearers.
Explore our artworks
See some of our featured artworks below