Creative passion is perhaps the secret to a long life.
Aboriginal artist Loongkoonan is proving that age is just a number by creating award-winning art well into her 100s. The exhibiting artist, born on a station (known as a ranch in the U.S.) around 1910, is believed to be one of Australia’s oldest painters.
A matriarch of Nyikina country, an area which surrounds the Fitzroy River in Western Australia, Loongkoonan has said that when she was born no one worried about recording births and deaths of Indigenous people or teaching reading and writing.
Loongkoonan, who rejects her “whitefella” name Daisy, given to her in her station days, began painting in her late 90s to keep busy.
The oldest speaker of the endangered Nyikina language, Loongkoonan spent her youth exploring the land with her grandparents by foot, learning about bush tucker — animals and plants eaten in the outback — and the lay of the land. These have since inspired her art.
“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,” Loongkoonan told Mossenson Galleries previously.
Indigenart-Mossenson Galleries owner Diane Mossenson, who purchased the first work produced by Loongkoon, said the artist uses painting as a way to record memories and knowledge of her country. In the dots of the traditional Aboriginal art, Loongkoonan documents her life and connection to the country, along with her knowledge of various plants, bush medicine and bush tucker.
“Loongkoonan’s paintings are records of her connection to country which she foot walked all over when younger. They reflect her intimate knowledge of this land, and as such are a powerful record of Aboriginal heritage and knowledge,” Mossenson said. “Loongkoonan’s message is one of handwork, resilience, endeavour and energy.”
Loongkoonan has created around 380 works, using acrylic paints on canvas and linen, during her career and shows no signs of slowing down. Currently she is exhibiting in the Biennial of Adelaide and the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C., spreading her knowledge of the land to a wide audience.
“Loongkoonan’s beautiful interpretation of country is unique in Indigenous art, as her mark making is delicately beautiful particularly for a Kimberley artist,” Mossenson said.
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