Born c.1910, Mount Anderson Station, Western Australia
Lives and works Derby, Western Australia
Born around 1910, Loongkoonan is the oldest living Nyikina speaker and one of Australia’s oldest practising artists. A revered matriarch in her community her life experiences inform Loongkoonan’s shimmering and delicate paintings of Nyikina country.
Covered in overlapping dots, they sparkle with a gentle melding of colour and form that perfectly balances delicacy with emotive urgency. In Loongkoonan’s paintings ‘bush tucker’ acts as a metonym for a lifetime’s accumulated knowledge and serves as a referent for a time when the hierarchies of Indigenous knowledge and learning were respected. Balancing nostalgia with an obvious joie de vivre, er works are defiant statements of the continuation of Indigenous culture.
I am Loongkoonan and I am an elder of the Nyikina people. I am proper Nyikina, one of the Yimadoowarra or riverside people. I am only Nyikina, not mixed up with anything else. My grandfather was proper Nyikina too. He died at Udialla. Nyikina country is along the topside of the Fitzroy River: Liveringa, Jarlmadanka (Mount Anderson), Udialla and lots more places. I was born at Mount Anderson Station near the Fitzroy River. When I was born, no one worried much about recording the births and deaths of Indigenous people, or teaching us to read or write. Research by my niece Margaret suggests that I am aged in my late 90s, but I am still very lively.
My parents worked on stations, and I was a good-sized girl when I started work mustering kookanja (sheep) and cooking in stock camps. Later on, I rode horses and mustered cattle too. Wet season was our holiday time for footwalking Nyikina Country with my grandparents.
Footwalking is the only proper way to learn about country, and remember it. That is how I got to know all of the bush tucker and medicine. Nowadays I show young people how to live off the Country, and how to gather spinifex wax, which is our traditional glue for fixing stone points to spear shafts, patching coolamons, and making all kinds of things. Nyikina spinifex wax is really strong. It was so well known in the olden days that it was traded all over the Kimberley and desert.
I had a good life on the stations and three husbands. Today I am a single woman, and I like to travel about looking at Country and visiting Countrymen (generic term for people). I still enjoy footwalking my country, showing the young people to chase barni (goannas) and catch fish. In my paintings I show all types of bush tucker – good tucker, that we lived off in the bush. I paint Nyikina country the same way eagles see country when they are high up in the sky.
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Australian Parliament House Collection
Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia
Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery
Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Collection
Edith Cowan University, Western Australia
Macquarie University Collection, News South Wales
Murdoch University Collection, Western Australia