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Mildred Mungulu

Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre

Mildred was born at Derby in the old Native Hospital (Numbala Nunga) and spent 22 years at Mowanjum (“old site”) on the Derby Highway. This was where Mildred watched her father Alan Mungulu (dec) make didgeridoos and boomerangs at home. “When I was there I would see him do them.” It was being near the traditional crafting of these objects that created a connection to her Culture which assisted Mildred’s own craft as a painter.

In 1979 the community was moved to a new site on the Gibb River Road and this is where Mildred now resides.

Mildred started her career as an exhibiting artist in 1998 and belongs to one of the most established traditional families in Mowanjum. Mildred has exhibited in Sydney, Perth, Derby, Broome and Woodford, Queensland.

As the family grew-up Mildred’s sisters, Sandra, Marjorie (dec), Margaret (dec) and Robyn, also developed into painters with the artistic dynasty led by “mum”, Gudu Mungulu, a significant Mowanjum painter in her own right. Mildred paints, “what represents us, from our mothers and fathers. We keep it going from generation to generation.”

 

Mildred’s paintings demonstrate an array of traditional symbolic representations, including Wandjinas from the three tribes of the Mowanjum community: the Ngarinyin, Worrorra and Wanambul tribes. Coastal Wandjina are signified by the series of circular lines crossed with radial lines fanning from the Wandjina’s head. It has been said this represents a cyclone and lightning.

Mildred advises: “Gyorn gyorn are like food gatherers and help Wandjinas with things. Ungud (waterhole) help couples who can’t have kids. In the pool of water the couple go swimming and get pregnant. Fishes are from the caves (Bradshaw caves). You know like in the books. Turtles, they get Wandjinas in them too. The two birds have two skins, Wodoi and Jungun. All the same skin, can’t marry. Some female forms are described by Mildred as “Jilinya- she likes stealing men. When men go in the bush and are gone, it’s her.”

Mildred spent many years working at Kimberley Health.