Front Cover: Bonni Ingram: Being a contemporary Aboriginal visual artist
By Sabrina Dowling Giudici
Badimia women of the Yamatji nation, Bonni Ingram, speaks candidly about her artwork, Bush Medicine Spes, featured on the front cover of this issue of The Record Magazine.
Was life imitating art or art imitating life?
The canvas and brief for this sacred painting lay untouched for more than a year.
Then Bonni Ingram had a near death experience and her world was shaken up.
Somehow in the midst of this, Bonni took to her paint brushes again.
“It is a very important artwork; for me it was a sacred piece. It had to be done right, more importantly, it had to be done in an appropriate way.”
This artwork by Bonni is layered in meaning and appearance with death and the birth of a baby boy being the centre of both the artwork story and Bonni’s life during the period it was created.
The background is a deep black, symbolising the break between humankind and God when the light of heaven was shut on the occasion of original sin.
But flecked over the black background are streaks of bright yellow, symbolising the hay of the manger where the newborn Jesus lay as He entered the world bringing back hope.
Then, as He journeyed through life, the streaks of yellow intensify as the eye travels from the base of the canvas to the top, where there is a solid explosion of yellow symbolising the Resurrection.
Here the doors of Heaven are shown to be flung open and the unimaginable light of eternal life shines through.
The artwork is completely layered with the contemporary interpretation by Bonni of the Yamatji motif of the bush medicine leaf (the Scaevola spiniscens), symbolising the healing brought to the world by Jesus Christ.
Here, the gentle wind of the breath of God’s love has blown the leaves into the shape of the Holy Cross, the act of sacrifice and pain acknowledged by the running red paint at the foot of the Cross.
“It has a lot of meaning through it, it is sad. It made me think of Jesus Christ, His pain. I feel people’s pain – I felt the pain,” says Bonni.
Bonni had the opportunity to mix her paints with water from the River Jordan, specifically where Jesus was baptised, together with the water of the Gascoyne River, where she lives.
“This painting is also about my healing. The birth of my first grandson Elias that brought me back hope because I was waiting to see him while I was painting this.”
Bonni Ingram is a proud Badimia woman of the Yamatji nation. Born in Mullewa, Bonni is the eleventh of 12 children born to her parents who were from the Mt Magnet – Payne’s Find area. Bonni was forcibly removed from her family and taken to the Sister Kate Home where she lived from the age of two to 17 when she was returned to her family. Scarred physically and emotionally from her experience, Bonni has constantly strived to protect her sons and other Aboriginal children from the cultural abuse and misunderstanding that afflicted her and her family and people. For Bonni, this mission is ongoing as she finds cultural awareness significantly under-developed in the major institutions that govern our Western Australian society.
From page 8 from Issue 8: ‘Aboriginal’ of The Record Magazine