Mavis Ngallametta

Aurukun QLD
  • Ikalath #6  2012
    Ochres and charcoal with acrylic 
binder on stretched linen
    Dimensions: 267 x 199 cm
    The Corrigan Collection
Photography: Jenni Carter, courtesy Martin Browne Contemporary

I live in Aurukun(1) in the community and it is a good place for me to stay. I used to weave all the time, but since 2008 I’ve been doing painting.

This painting is about this place, Ikalath. It is a nice place but it’s not my place, but I have an adopted son and I have to ask him if it’s alright for me to go there. So I can go out with my son and I can go out to get this special white (ochre) – just also like Europeans, you have to ask permission to go.

I am always thinking about painting, maybe from a dream or a memory of where I have been. I also make weaving from pandanus and ghost net(2) – now I am never doing nothing.

First of all, there is the blue acrylic paint of the water. Then the painting is made from the country. That yellow is from Yalgamunken – I always go there to collect that yellow. It’s the clay – you have to dig it from the ground, you lay it out till it is dry, then I take a special sifter to take the lumps out… so just like making a cake or bread. And after that, mix it up, then make a fire and when it is really hot I put that yellow so it cooks, and out of that yellow it turns red. I make the black charcoal from burning this special wood.

You see in the painting the oil drums. Now when you walk along the beach you find these things like old nets and rubbish that were not there before. You also see those red rocks, and under the water there are oyster beds.

I think it is important to share the stories and to teach the young people.

Mavis Ngallametta
In conversation, Gold Coast City Gallery, July 2014,
and Interview, Cairns, June 2014


(1) Aurukun is located on the north–west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

(2) ‘Ghost nets’ are long nets cast adrift by fishing vessels throughout Cape York and the Torres Strait, which catch marine life in their path, and are eventually deposited as piles of tangled rubbish onto the beaches.

Mavis Ngallametta stands in her boat with Tim O'Reilly and Dawn Koondumbin, Archer River system, Gulf of Carpentaria, 2012.
Photography: Kerry Trapnell.