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Joan Nancy STOKES

Warrmungu people

Australia 1959 /1963 – 2012

The Black Riders are Stuntsmen 2002 Australia
paintings, synthetic polymer paint on paper
Technique: synthetic polymer paint on paper
77.0 h x 57.0 w cm
Purchased 2003
Accession No: NGA 2003.373

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  • Papakana was fast asleep during the night when all of a sudden his boomerang and spear fell over with a loud crash and woke him up. He could hear little Rai spirits dancing nearby, but he could not see them because only very senior law men can see them. Nanjkunangku Rai spirit beings live in special areas around Broome in Western Australia. They can transform into plants and animals or parts of the landscape. When the Rai spirits adopt a human appearance they are small childlike creatures with pointed ears. Rai are generally kind spirits who protect and guide people through life but they can be very mischievous, just as they were with Papakana!
    Ackerman, K. Kleinart, S. and Neale, M.(Eds) The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture Oxford Univeristy Press, 2000, pg 658

    Butcher Joe Nangan, Nyikina people,
    Butcher Joe received his nickname in the 1930s when he was employed in the Beagle Bay Mission butcher shop near Broome in Western Australia. His exquisite drawings illustrate the complex stories of the Bugarigara [Dreaming] when beings walked the earth who had the power to transform from human to animal form. Aboriginal people believe that these spirits still inhabit these areas and interact with humans. These illustrations reveal Butcher Joe’s comprehensive knowledge of the area as well as his drawing skill which he perfected by engraving boab nuts and pearl shells with a pen knife.


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010