Indigenous Kimberley artists use new tools to tell old story

Posted by John Coxon on

Garry and Darrell Sibosado from the Lombadina community are from the Bard people, who have lived on the Dampier Peninsula, Australia for thousands of years — long before white settlement.

Through their artwork, the brothers tell the traditional story of the "Aalingoon", or the Rainbow Snake, which rose from the earth and shed its scales, which then transformed into the pearl shells scattered on the coastal reefs in Bard country.


"The people would go onto the reefs and get the pearl shell and turn them into ornaments for ceremony and dance, and as gifts," Garry Sibosado said.


"And they draw symbols on the shell and you see the symbols are on the serpent as well."

Mr Sibosado received permission from Bard elders to replicate symbols which have been passed down over hundreds of generations for thousands of years.

Thanks to modern technology, the intricate symbols representing whales, sea turtles and other creatures are far easier to reproduce than in centuries past.

But it is still time-consuming work, with Mr Sibosado first cleaning and buffering the pearl shells before he can begin to carve the Riji designs.

"I cut into the pearl shell and I've inlaid ochre into where I have cut, and I have done Riji designs onto them," he said.

"I use an electrical tool, a power tool now with [a] diamond cutting tool, but back in the day they used to use hard bone to cut into the shell.

"This took me a couple of months to make, getting the shell to polish the way I wanted it to and then carving it out. It was a long process."

This blog post adapted from a news article in ABC News by Sarah Collard, February 2019


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