Spinifex Hill Studios, WA
Cooee Art, NSW
Thelma was born in the Percival Lakes region and grew up in the area surrounding Yimiri and Kurturarra waterholes. In 1964, just preceding a weapons’ testing program that was to be launched by the Australian government within this region, a final search for any remaining pujiman (Aboriginal nomadic desert dwelling people) was conducted. For several weeks, Thelma and her family evaded their pursuit by aeroplane spotters, motorcars, Aboriginal trackers and patrol officers. When they were finally intercepted, the family was brought in to Jigalong Mission. Their relocation followed the movement of many Martu coming in from the desert, precipitated by the dual effects of an extreme and prolonged drought, and increasing contact with European drovers following the construction of the Canning Stock Route.
Thelma went to school in Jigalong, then moved to Strelley Station for a time before returning to Jigalong. There she married fellow artist Yanjimi Peter Rowlands. Together they remained in Jigalong, raising their children in the years prior to the Return to Country movement of the 1980s, when they collectively relocated to Parnngurr Aboriginal Community. Today Thelma moves between Port Hedland, Newman and Parnngurr.Share