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Sheila Kate Gardiner

Spinifex Hill Studios

‘I remember going to the art centre at Spinifex Hill [Studios] in South Hedland and talking to my father (Nyaparu William Gardiner dec.). I said “Dad, can I paint dots on my painting?” He said “No!”  When I asked why, he told me not to paint dots because I might end up painting another man’s country and you aren’t allowed to do that.

So I took my father’s advice and found my own way of painting.  It’s “Nngapa“, which means ‘water’ or ‘flood’ in the English language. So everyone in my family does their own style of painting.  My father paints about station life and the old people that fought for equal pay in the 1946 Strike. My mother paints stories of her family when she was growing up.  She also paints birds and how most of them are very special to us.  My brother, Zenith, does landscape painting.

As a young Aboriginal woman I’ve got the best of both worlds.  My father has been a linguist and my mother speaks Walmajarri, Nyikina and Mangala.  Art has always been part of our culture.  We use it to identify ourselves as people and connect with the land and animals.  One day my children will follow in our footsteps and be recognised in their art and paintings. Water represents Life to me. When there is no water, there is dryness. But the water brings everything back to Life.’