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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Our country



Ben Galmidle Ward


01 Jan 1949 -

Language group

Miriwoong, East Kimberley region


“I was born at Argyle Downs station, at Ben Creek, hence my name, in 1951. My family all worked on the station and we lived there until I was 10. We walked from Argyle Station to Ivanhoe so I could go to school at the Kimberley Research Station. My parents and extended family gained work at Ivanhoe Station. My stepfather, was a stockman at Argyle Downs Station, he was half Miriwoong and half Afghan and in those days he couldn’t claim me as his own.”
Ben Ward started to painting on a regular basis in 2011 through Warringarri Aboriginal Arts in Kununurra, WA. He had actually started to paint after he left school and was working as a mechanic, with the wife of his employer teaching him how to use water colours. However, the demands of working life did not allow him to expand this practice. Over his career Ward mustered cattle on stations in the Kimberley, became a nurse and worked for the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service and later worked for the Aboriginal Development Commission. A role in which he officially opened Warringarri Aboriginal Arts in the early 1980s, where he now works.
In his painting Ward gives eloquent and interesting form to his Mirriwoong country to the south of Kununurra. Painting from memory Ward captures the topography and geography of this country while referring to the changes that have impacted on the environment during his lifetime. In ‘Our Country’ 2015 he employs triangular designs of juxtaposed colours to depict the rivers, mountains and ranges of his country, while also commenting on issues that are close to his heart. Strategically located nuclear symbols identify sites of cultural importance which have been damaged in recent times. Wards has said of his work:

"This is country but you have to look at it closely to see it and that's what you have to do with culture….It's the same with my paintings… When you see a landscape there are layers of knowledge that are unseen.”

“This is Mirriwoong country, not my country, our country… It’s like a school and if we don’t teach our young ones, it will be lost.”


Place where the work was made

Kununurra East Kimberley Western Australia Australia



Media category


Materials used

natural pigments on plywood


122.0 x 240.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ben Galmidle Ward

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Sentient lands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jun 2016–08 Oct 2017

  • Our Land, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 21 Jan 2017–18 Jun 2017