Born 1947, Western Australia
Lived and worked in Kalumburu, Western Australia
Mary Punchi Clement was born in the remote riverside community of Kalumburu in Western Australia. Mary’s intricate and mesmerising paintings done in traditional ochre speak of a dramatic and vibrant land, rich with spiritual vigour. As a grandmother, Mary nurtured the younger generations of her community, passing on stories of the land, its ecology and spirituality. Her paintings are tangible conveyances of the intangible, bridges between this world and that of the Dreaming. Most notably, Mary tells of the Kira Kiro (Bradshaw Figures), ancient and benevolent spirits who dwell amongst the coastal crags and winding tributaries of the region. Such depictions of these figures, dating tens of thousands of years in age, adorn the many caves and rock faces that surround Kalumburu. Mary’s work shimmer with an enchanting adoration for detail and emit undeniable warmth of spirit.
Her bushname was Muljay. As she said "My father found me" at Ngarrandhu on the turtle, that’s my totem. He was a policeman tracker who used to bring parents and their kids back to the mission. He found my mother out there (in the bush) and carried her to the mission on horse back with him. They were both married already but they fell in love. "I used to work in the convent looking after the sick kids but now I’m a grandmother and I look after a lot of kids on the community."
Mary painted ceremony and events, dancing and hunting as well as botanical themes, not limited to plants on land but also fresh water and salt water aquatic plants, known as food sources for sea creatures, which are also an important part of Kalumburu culture. As a community elder she held a wealth of knowledge regarding her cultural traditions.
National Gallery of Australia
Zhongfu Group collection, China