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Lena Nyadbi

Gimmenbayin Cave - 2006

natural earth pigments on Belgian linen
82 x 198 cm
Price Realised: $26,840.00

MP #678


Warmun Art Centre, WA Cat No. 225/06
Niagara Galleries, Vic Cat No. 9962
Private Collection, Vic

Lena was born at Warnmarnjooloogoon Lagoon (near Greenvale Station) and grew up in Thildoowam country, also known as Old Lissadell Station. Like other Aboriginal people living in the East Kimberley at this time, Lena was put to work on the station at an early age under conditions akin to indentured labour. Here she worked a wide range of jobs, including mustering cattle, milking cows, and general station duties. Lena moved to the new Lissadell Station when it was relocated for the development of Lake Argyle. This region is of special significance to Lena, who remembers the water for the Ord River Irrigation Scheme covering her country and all of its significant sites.

Lena paints two principal Dreamings. The first is Jimbirla. Jimbirla are the sharp quartz-like stones used by Gija people of the past to make spear tips. These are found in abundance in Nyadbi’s father’s country, which lies to the north of Warmun.

The second is Dayiwool Lirlmim - the scales that scraped off the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) barramundi, as she jumped through a range of hills escaping from the Spinifex nets of women who were trying to catch her. The gap her body made in the rock is the current site of the Argyle Diamond Mine and the diamonds are her scales. Lena paints, what she describes as her ‘poor bugger country’, as mining physically renders what were once mountains into plains.

In 2006, Lena was one of eight Indigenous artists from Australia featured in the Musée du quai Branly project in Paris, which involved reproducing her work in concrete relief on the façade of the building. This relationship continued in 2013, when Lena’s 'Dayiwool Lirlmim' was recreated in large scale on the rooftop of the museum, visible from atop the Eiffel Tower.