Age is just a number, I guess – even if it’s 105!? Aboriginal artist Loongkoonan is proof you can sail past 100 and still keep creating. Born on a ranch in 1910, she is believed to be Australia’s oldest painter. Loongkoonan rejects her “whitefella” name Daisy, given to her in her station days. She just began painting in her late 90s to stay busy.
The oldest speaker of the endangered Nyikina language, Loongkoonan spent her youth exploring the land with her grandparents by foot.
“I still enjoy footwalking my country, showing the young people to chase barni (goannas) and catch fish. In my paintings I show all types of bush tucker – good tucker, that we lived off in the bush. I paint Nyikina country the same way eagles see country when they are high up in the sky.“
Indigenart-Mossenson Galleries owner Diane Mossenson, who purchased the first work produced by Loongkoon, said the artist uses painting as a way to record memories and knowledge of her country. In the dots of the traditional Aboriginal art, Loongkoonan documents her life and connection to the country, along with her knowledge of various plants, bush medicine and bush tucker.
“Loongkoonan’s paintings are records of her connection to country which she foot walked all over when younger. They reflect her intimate knowledge of this land, and as such are a powerful record of Aboriginal heritage and knowledge. Loongkoonan’s message is one of handwork, resilience, endeavour and energy.
Loongkoonan’s beautiful interpretation of country is unique in Indigenous art, as her mark making is delicately beautiful particularly for a Kimberley artist.“
She has created over 375 works, using acrylic paints on canvas and linen, during her short career and shows no signs of slowing down. She is exhibiting in the Biennial of Adelaide and the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C., spreading her knowledge of her land to a wider audience.
I have to say, as a painter half her age, this is VERY encouraging.