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DORIS GINGINGARA (1946-1999), major artist of aboriginal art

Crow with Nest (Dry)
22 Daniel Rey Doris Gingingara Nicolas C
26 Lesley Jane Campbell Daniel Rey Doris
13 Doris Gingingara & Danny Rey

Doris Gingingara (1946 – 1999) came to prominence during the 1990s when her detailed images of the natural world were part of the art portfolio promoted by Desert Designs, alongside desert artist Jimmy Pike. Doris Gingingara was born at Maningrida, an Aboriginal community on the north coast of Australia at the mouth of the Liverpool River.

Doris Gingingara had a traditional upbringing, and learned the skills taught by the women of her Barada language group. Doris remembers as a small girl that she was taken by Mimi spirits and placed in a tree where she was taught the skills of basket-weaving and net-making.  The Mimi spirits of Arnhem Land are only experienced in dreams in the twilight, normally only visible to wise people. Doris Gingingara had an exceptional experience when her life came to be influenced by the spirits of cultural standing in her community. Here was the understanding that cultural knowledge was not totally dependent on individuals, but conceived in Dreaming and passed down through generations.

Doris Gingingara did her schooling in Darwin, 500 kms from Maningrida, and  went to visit her family at holiday time. But Cyclone Tracy changed everything when it demolished Darwin in 1974, and Doris Gingingara was repatriated to Perth, then later to Geraldton and on to Mount Magnet. Doris stayed in this outback mining town in Western Australia with her French-born husband Danny, until her death at the young age of 53 in 1999.

Doris Gingingara drew inspiration for her art came from the well of childhood experiences –  events of everyday life, and details she saw in the bush around her. Doris Gingingara included Dreaming totems, ceremonies and sacred locations in her art. What we get from her work is the intricate detail of the natural world seen from an Aboriginal woman’s perspective, an insight into the complex relationship of the artist and natural world.

My testimony :

"When I met her in 1996, at the foot of her little pavilion, I had no idea that I was entering the house of such a talented artist. I knew nothing. She opened her arms and welcomed me with such simplicity, such kindness, that my memory will never erase that moment. With the ignorance of my age, the ignorance of our time, I discovered and glimpsed what I really am, a man from our land, with a frail and ephemeral destiny. She showed me her hands, her fingers, telling me that she had lived her youth as we lived it 40,000 years ago. She told me a few stories from her childhood. "So few", I say to myself today.

She painted with an acute sense of colour harmony and already begun to be recognise. They received me for a week and I could see her trying her hand at other forms of artistic expression, including the sculpture of emus eggs, always inspired by the collective memory of a people with a multi-millennial culture. I have not found any documentation on her sculptures, which would deserve to be exhibited to the public.

Her husband Danny was French and had great admiration and affection for his wife. Mount Magnet is a very isolated hamlet in Western Australia and visits are very rare. No doubt they hoped I would stay longer. Then I left. Internet and social networks did not exist. Twenty years later, as I started writing my first novel, inspired by my odyssey, I tried to find them. Alas, they were no longer of this world and had returned to the lands of Arnhem. »

A chapter of my novel "Gaborone" is dedicated to Doris, Danny and Mount Magnet.


Artbank, Sydney
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide

Group Exhibitions:

1989 Smiths Gallery, Covent Garden, London
1989 Desert Designs Gallery, Fremantle
1990 Blaxland Gallery, Sydney
1990 Robert Steele Gallery, Adelaide
1990 Beaver Galleries, Canberra
1990 Shades of Ochre Gallery, Darwin
1992 Crossroads – Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo
1995 Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
1995 Salon International Gallery de Chartreuse, France

Gallery of some works by Doris Gingingara

Press articles

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