Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Australian Aboriginal Artist Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann Recognised with Educational Foundation

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann

NT News reports that Australian Aboriginal artist and educator Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, "who has an honorary PhD in education, has been made the chair of the new Miriam-Rose Foundation."  The foundation has recently been established to "raise money to help remote indigenous children get better access to education and learning opportunities, including by boarding in cities."

Uniya.com writes that "in 1998, Miriam-Rose was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, for her services to Aboriginal education and art, and for services to the Nauiyu community having been for many years a member of the local community council, often in the role of President."

"Despite never attending secondary school, Miriam-Rose became the NT's first Indigenous school teacher and principal of St Francis Xavier in her home community. Influenced by her bush-tracker uncle, Miriam advocates teaching both western and traditional ways in Indigenous communities" (105.7 ABC Darwin).

Uniya.com continues:

Fifth Station
by Miriam-Rose
Miriam-Rose developed a unique imagery characteried in her acclaimed series of paintings, Australian Stations of the Cross. Early recognition of her work was also given when she was asked to illustrate Alan Marshall's book "People of the Dreaming". 
As Miriam-Rose's interest in painting grew, she used art increasingly as a means of encouraging children to express themselves...  
In 1975, Miriam-Rose again returned to Daly River as the Territory's first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher and for many years held the position of Art Consultant with the Professional Services Branch of the Northern Territory Department of Education. During this time she visited schools throughout the Territory thus gaining the opportunity to advance her commitment to the inclusion of visual art as a part of every child's education.

According to the Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Miriam-Rose

has had a profound impact on her home community at Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River, NT) through her work as an educator, school principal, writer, and active community and church member. As a painter, she has attempted to reconcile her belief in both Indigenous and Catholic spirituality through an individual style of religious synchronism. After painting a school mural in 1971, she undertook her first major work, the fourteen Stations of the Cross, at Daly River church, in 1974. This launched her as a serious painter and led to her first commission, illustrating mythological themes in Alan Marshall's book People of the Dreaming. 
by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann
In developing her painting style in acrylics, Ungunmerr consciously avoided any direct references to men's ceremonial art. The result was what she calls her ‘symbolic art’ of stylised figures with decorative detailing: dashes, wavy lines, dots, and circles that operate as personal icons to express particular ideas and emotions. When she assisted in the establishment of Merrepen Arts in 1987 many of the artists used her way of painting as the basis for their own stylistic development. Among the painters who first started working for Merrepen were a number of senior women, including Ungunmerr's mother, Mary Kunnyi (1925–). After executing a religious work very similar to her daughter's ‘eucharist’ painting, Kunnyi began developing her own style, starting with intricately dotted figure compositions that later evolved into the gestural, abstract works that she is known for today.Sometimes she explicitly depicts her Dreamings, such as water snake and pelican, though most works are vignettes of the various plant and animals species from her home country, Ngambu Ngambu. Kunnyi's unique style of painting is highly sought after and she is one of the few Merrepen artists to have had a number of solo exhibitions. Her daughter's paintings are also in demand, especially those on religious themes, though her responsibilities as Community Council President and school principal currently allow her little time to paint.
You can read more about Miriam-Rose's life here, and for a great book on her art and philosophy, consider The Serpent of Good and Evil : A Reconciliation in the Life and Art of Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann by Patricia R. Derrington

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