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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Roy Wiggan


1930 - 2016

Language group

Bardi, Kimberley region


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.


Place where the work was made

West Kimberley Western Australia Australia



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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Roy Wiggan

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history