DAISY NGAWAIA NALYIRRI An Archive Survey - Important Works
Born circa 1926 near Pigeon Hole, Wave Hill and Dunmara Top Springs Northern Territory the famous old stock route, Daisy Ngawaia Nalyirri was a traditional owner of Murranji (Nayinini), west of Dunmara in the Northern Territory.
Daisy’s inherited dreaming stories, Ngurra-Mala, the place of dreaming, and the law, was associated with the link between her country and people the Mudburra people of the Elliott area in the Northern Territory.
Daisy lived for many years on Channel Island in the East Arm Leprosarium off the coast of Darwin and married Nuggett Collins Japarta, a senior law man of the Marlinja people. They lived in Elliott on the Stuart Highway half way between Alice Springs and Darwin. Nuggett was an important man of the area and introduced me to the land and owners of Newcastle Waters and the extraordinary lagoon (Longreach waterhole) with all its bird life and spirits.
I first met Daisy in Elliott in 1995 when visiting a friend who was the adult education teacher to the small community. He showed me several canvases painted by his adult students, however he deemed that the ones under his desk were not suitable for a Melbourne Gallery. Of course, I asked to see them and I was both amazed and thrilled to see Daisy’s paintings for the first time.
In 1995 Daisy, though not prolific, amazed me by her use of acrylic paint and canvas, producing passionate images of great depth and subtlety, exploring the very core of Aboriginal Spirituality – the meaning of her land, and free from the more formal constraints of traditional desert work at that time. Her paintings with their brilliant colours producing dynamic canvasses splashed with dots and scattered meandering dreaming trails resulting in images, which convey a rich and powerful interpretation of a complex ceremonial life. Her disability due to the leprosy became of little hinderance. Painting with a brush and cotton bud (as her fingers) gave her so much pleasure.
Unfortunately, Daisy’s career was short lived as she passed away suddenly in 1997. Her family rejoiced in the fact that Daisy had painted her stories. A cotton bud and a brush were her tools; her love of country and spectacular use of colour in her mind’s eye resulted in a small yet sublime body of work.
Daisy had her first solo exhibition at Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne in 1995. Two major paintings by Nalyirri were exhibited in the spectacular BlueScope Steel sponsored exhibition and publication Colour Power – Aboriginal art post 1984 at the National Gallery of Victoria Australia in Federation Square, Melbourne (27 November 2004 – 13 February 2005). Her major works are in the NGV Collection. This small body of work is released for the first time to celebrate our 30 years.
Beverly Knight 2019