Lot 56
  • 56

Jack Karedada circa 1920-2003

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
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  • Namarali - The First One
  • Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark (eucalyptus tetradonta)
  • 100cm by 49cm


Collected by the sound recordist working on Michael Edols film, Lalai Dreamtime at Mowanjum in 1972. The film, in part, involved filming of Wanjina paintings in the company of Worrorra people. It was presented to the film crew for sale by Karedada who described the painting as 'Namarali, the first one' and further described the work as a Wanjiina bringing the first man and woman - held in each hand.
Sotheby's Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 29 June 1998, Lot 7
The Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands


The painting was acquired by the vendor at Sotheby's in 1998 and appears in the catalogue then in very similar condition to its current state. The painting has many areas of pigment loss, most apparent in the upper thighs, arms, head, and shoulders of the main central figure. There is some flaking of the paint to the head and shoulders and we would recommend that the purchaser consider consolidation in this area, which could be readily undertaken by a restorer with the use of a clear matte gum.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Cf. Tim Klingender with Kim Akerman, The Presence of Greatness: early Wanjiina paintings and Indigenous Art of Western Australia, Tim Klingender Fine Art, Sydney, 2013, pp.10-11, for a related work by the artist now in the collection of The National Gallery of Australia; Ian Crawford, The Art of the Wandjina, Aboriginal Cave Paintings in Kimberley, Western Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1968, pp.55-56, for discussion of the myth depicted in this work.

The title of this painting is derived from Worrorra mythology related to the creation of the coastline between the Prince Regent River and Doubtful Bay in the West Kimberley. Namarali (Namarlee), a senior Wanjina, creates the coastline as he and other Wanjinas, chase and fight over the female Rock Cod being. A major site for this Wanjina is located in the cave at Ngumbri (Raft Point).

The anthropologist Ian Crawford recounted one version of this myth, “Namarali was chasing the rock cod, but he could not catch her for she kept slipping through his hands. From this corner to that corner, all around he was chasing her at the place called Langgi. He chased her into the eastern corner when his group met another group of Wanjinas. His people told him:

‘They are fighting – they’ve taken your wife!'

Then he went to the fight and with all the strength he had, he belted the whole lot with his club. He knocked the lot down, but they put a spear into his side then.

The mob looked at him saying:

‘Hello – he got speared! He's speared in a fatal place ­he will die.'

Everybody cried for him then.

His group carried him away, made the tree platform where his grave is and painted him on the rocks. The people must use the burial platform because the Wanjina used it: that fellow made the law for the dead bodies.” (ibid)

Jack Karedada belonged to the family of artists whose total output exceeded those of any other school of Wanjina painters. Jack, his wife Lily (Mindildil), his brother Lewis and Lewis’ wife Rosie (Ngalirrman) were members of the Wunambal speaking peoples that occupied the North West Kimberley between the Prince Regent River and the King Edward River. Their brother Manila Karedada (Kutwit) had been one of the foremost painters of Wanjina pictures during the renaissance of North Kimberley art that occurred in the mid-1970s.

The clan lands of the Karedada families lie at Cape Voltaire (Wulangku) and its primary totemic affiliation is the butcherbird (karadada). It is this bird that gives the clan its name. The Karedada patrilineal moiety affiliations are wodoi, the spotted nightjar, and the brolga, kurangkuli. The reciprocal moiety totems are the Jiringgun, the owlet nightjar and banar the bustard. These birds are the primary totemic species for Lily and Rosie.

Karedada had several styles he drew upon when painting his Wanjina figures. Most were relatively small pictures, but there was a period in the late 1970s and early 1980s that his painting exceeded a metre in height. He also had several styles of depicting the hair/head-dress of his figures. There are at least four large paintings that show (as does this particular painting) the rays as long and broad spikes, rather than denser and shorter extensions of the head or halo that are more commonly seen in his work.  A number of Karedada’s paintings also show the little bush sprites that were sometimes painted as support figures. Since the 1990s these figures are more likely to be directly derived from the now-famous Gwion-Gwion (or Bradshaw paintings) found in the early rock art styles of the region.