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Donny Woolagoodja

Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre

Donny was born at Kunmunya Mission on the remote NW Kimberley coast in 1947. He is one of a large family and son of Sam Woolagoodja, a renowned lawman who passed away in 1979.

Donny was educated in two worlds; this nurtured his understanding of both the white world and the deeply held traditional beliefs of his people. Like his father, he worked on boats and became a skilled navigator.

The waters off the coast of the Worrorra lands are some of the most treacherous in the Kimberley, with huge whirlpools, and an extreme tidal range. Donny was named after one of these powerful whirlpools.

He says about his Worrorra name: “This is my Ungud. I was named for this whirlpool Karram Muddu. It’s up near Augustus Island. That’s where my Ungud comes from. My father Sam Woolagoodja named me. There’s a snake in that salt water whirlpool, Warndum”

As a small child, Donny and his family were moved to Mowanjum, near Derby, far south of their Worrorra homelands. Here Donny watched his elders paint the Wandjinas on bark and boards, and learnt the stories of Lai Lai [creation].

After his fathers death in 1979, Donny took responsibility for the land, and for passing on the traditions of his culture. He became active in the pursuit of native title, and continues this work today. Donny also began to paint, and quickly became one of the foremost artists of Mowanjum.

Donny’s commitment to passing on the traditions of his culture culminated in the feature of his epic Wandjina Namarali at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Donny has maintained his strong connection to Worrorra country, living for long periods at Yaloon (Cone Bay), visiting and looking after Wandjina sites, and teaching new generations of artists

In 2020 Donny’s biography Yornadaiyn Woolagoodja was published by Magabala Books Broome WA.