Rotary e-Club NextGen Supports Kimberley Artists with Generous Donation

Kimberley artists have just received a generous donation of art materials to the value $ 4,200 from Rotary e-Club NextGen. A chance meeting at Norval Gallery with the Rotarians has led to the indigenous artists in Derby receiving top quality paint, canvas and framing materials which will allow the creation of up to 100 major paintings.

Having these consumables will enable participant’s instant involvement and engagement with Aboriginal cultural practices in art when they drop in.

Being able to gain instant involvement will encourage return visits and enable participants to have continuing recovery with a positive effect on mental health because they work together building new positive cultural futures.

In these settings, the indigenous artists draw upon their cultural past, however, more importantly for positive mental health, they have developed contemporary styles that promote safe and purposeful futures.

When Ian and Heather Yarker stepped into Norval Gallery in Derby in August 2017, they were overwhelmed by the warmth and encouraging atmosphere found throughout the art space. Ian and Heather were visiting the Kimberley hosting and organising community meetings which focussed on the confronting issue of youth suicide in the region.

Gallery owners Mark and Mary Norval were struck with the sincerity of the two Rotarians and Mark agreed to help organise a meeting for the Derby community to discuss this vital issue.

Ian and Heather Yarker proposed the project after they saw that, through the gallery, Mark and Mary are providing an environment that enhanced the lives of 90 indigenous painters, over 40 Boab nut carvers and many others.

A significant contribution was made by e-Club Rotarian Pam Johns who gave time and expertise to write a perceptive application for a District 9640 Grant from The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International which was combined with e-Club funds and 2 private donations from e-Club Rotarians, Jane Loxton and artist Lorraine Lee. Art House Framing and Art Supplies of Broome enhanced the value of the project with significantly discounted material supplies.

Norval Gallery opened in 2012 in an old shed that once was a hardware shop. The shed is owned by their friend Don Dunbar. “In the beginning it was just going to be for my own artwork”, says Mark.  It didn’t take long before a multitude of indigenous people began gravitating towards the gallery.

Mark Norval says, “Derby is a melting pot of indigenous people and cultures.  It sits on a pindan sand dune which juts across the tidal mudflats of King Sound near the mouth of the mighty Fitzroy River.  The land here is of the Nykina and Warwa people.  About 10 kilometres from town lies the community of Mowanjum.  Here 300 people of the Ngarinyin, Wororra and Wunumbal live and observe a culture based on the Wandjina. The Wandjina is a mysterious cosmic being and is a creation spirit.  From the Great Sandy Desert and Tanamai Desert are the Walmatjarri, Mangala, Kukutja and Walpiri people.  From the central Kimberley come the Kidja and Gooniyandi people. Each of these groups has their own unique cultural identity, complex languages and artistic traditions based on stories passed down for tens of thousands of years.  Derby has a regional hospital, a dialysis centre, an indigenous prison and most of the attractions that draw people from communities into a regional town. It is from this diverse gathering of people that emerge the artists of Norval Gallery.

Successful artists such as sisters Tanisha and Samantha Wungundin Allies were teenagers when they began their art careers at Norval Gallery. Petrina Bedford and her partner Jake Lovell, Leon Nyandi, Kira Webb, Jonas Green from Looma community, Locheisha Wise from Mulan and from Nookanbah, Deslee and Siobarne Nargoodah, also began painting in their teens at the gallery.

Everybody is welcomed as a potential artist or musician or a characterful storyteller. The gallery promotes a family atmosphere. Artists from different language groups from all over the region all socialize together and create their art.

The gallery is a working studio and is definitely not a sterile immaculately kept gallery like many that you see in the city, nothing is hidden.

Mary Norval says, “I love working at the gallery because it is such a positive and productive place.  The artists are happy to work in a place where they feel really proud of their achievements. It also takes many of the artists away from environments where they may feel threatened, depressed or in many cases suffering from boredom. It is obvious that the artists are having a good time while they are here”.

Mark and Mary are both trained art teachers and artists. Between them they have nearly 50 years of teaching experience in the Kimberley town of Derby.

Mark and Mary Norval are so grateful to Rotary e-club NextGen for supporting the indigenous artists in making better lives for themselves and their children. They are so grateful to, the hardworking, enthusiastic and giving couple, Heather and Ian Yarker, for bringing this whole project together.