Tourism Australia Head of Indigenous Aff

Renowned Kimberley artist celebrates release of book  

[by Xenica Ayling]

Image: supplied

World-renowned Gija artist Shirley Purdie shares her artwork and life story in a stunning new children's picture book.


Told in Gija and English with rich ochre paintings, this new children’s picture book, from Magabala Books out now, is the life story of Shirley Purdie, a world-famous Gija artist and Kimberley Elder.


Shirley Purdie: My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe is the first book in the Kimberley Arts Series, and introduces children to the diverse stories and extraordinary talent of Kimberley Aboriginal visual artists.


When asked about what it means to share her story with children, Shirley said “good to put it in painting, your Country, so kids can know and understand. When the old people die, young people can read the stories from the paintings. They can learn from the paintings and maybe they want to start painting too.”


Each painting in the book reflects the recognisable Warmun style, which is famous for its richly textured ochre in the tradition of late artists Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie. Shirley’s paintings are currently on show at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the exhibition Ngaalim-Ngalimboorro Ngagenybe, to coincide with the release of the book.


“We are honoured to be able to launch the Kimberley Arts Series with an artist of Shirley’s calibre,” said Magabala Publisher Rachel Bin Salleh.


“The books in this series will show the talent and diversity of Kimberley artists, and will be great for kids to learn about different art styles and cultures.”


The Kimberley Arts Series focuses on developing the skills of Kimberley Aboriginal artists in children’s picture book storytelling and illustration and is a collaboration between Magabala Books and Kimberley Art Centres.


The series is generously supported by the State Government of Western Australia’s Kimberley Development Commission through a Regional Economic Development Grant.

Shirley Purdie has been painting for more than twenty years and is an artist of increasing significance and seniority. Her cultural knowledge and artistic skill complement each other to produce a practice that holds great strength. Shirley is also a prominent leader in Warmun community and an incisive crosscultural communicator. She is inspired by more senior Warmun artists including her late mother, the great Madigan Thomas, as well as Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie. Much of her work explores spirituality and the relationship between Gija conceptions of Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) and Catholicism. In 2007 Shirley was awarded the Blake Prize for Religious Art for her major work Stations of the Cross.


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