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Roy Wiggan


1930 – 2015

Language group: Bardi, Kimberley region

Alternate image of Rai by Roy Wiggan
Alternate image of Rai by Roy Wiggan
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Broome Western Australia Australia
    Cultural origin
    Bardi, Kimberley region
    Media category
    Materials used
    acrylic on plywood, cotton wool
    87.0 cm x 64.0 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2018
    Isaac Wakil Gallery
    Accession number
    © Estate of Roy Wiggan

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Roy Wiggan

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Ilma describe both the object and the ceremony performed by Bardi people. Roy Wiggan received the stories embedded in his Ilma’s from his father, after his passing, through a series of dreams. Wiggan’s Ilma predominately revolve around life at sea experienced by his father, Henry Wiggan, a Bardi man of the Kimberly region who skippered the Sunday Island Mission lugger. His adventures and misadventures in the Indian Ocean inform the Ilma that are used as dance apparel in the ceremonies associated with the stories, as well as being works of art. The Bardi seafaring peoples’ homeland includes one of nature’s phenomenon, the Buccaneer Archipelago, a marine environment abundant in treacherous tides, rips, whirlpools and overfalls of which, a number of Wiggan’s works reference. The stories that were given to him aid in understanding the landscape and Bardi Ngarrangkarni (lore and culture passed down from the ancestors).
    ‘Rai’ is a child spirit or soul before it is reborn, wandering around looking for a mother so that it can be reborn and enjoy life again. The art centre certificate states “It sings a song about being sad and lonely, about the sun and the eyes going down about wanting to dance and play and be active looking around for its mummy.” This Rai spirit sits with its legs crossed and arms folded with its head resting in its hands, similar to a young child sulking.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

    • 21st Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 Mar 2018–11 Jun 2018

    • Making Worlds, Art Gallery of New South Wales, North Building, Sydney, 03 Dec 2022–2023

Other works by Roy Wiggan

See all 11 works