Maisie Bundey Ilyarra, Great Sandy Desert, WA, Australia, b. 1949


Maisie Bundey has been painting since 1989. Though she paints the same “Country” and story as her sisters, she has always strived to distinguish herself stylistically.  Her painting is linked to her original work with “Batik”, a technique that involves drawing a design onto the fabric using a medium such as wax and then dyeing the fabric. The fluid and colourful liberation that this training gives Bundey is evident. She works with a loose-handed dry brush, layering colour to develop her own textured abstract interpretation of the food sources of her country (called Alalgura) on Utopia Station.


Bundey’s “Country” is near Alalgura soakage. There, every summer, women gather to celebrate the aftermath of good rains that have run through the creeks and caused the desert flowers and fruits to burst into growth. A ceremony called  “Awelye’” encourages the season into growth and abundance. The song, dances and body-painting are part of the education given to young girls between 8 and 14 years. Two main ritual and custodian leaders of the Alalgura country  “sing up” the ceremony with “Kwurraparra”, ceremonial poles adorned with white cockatoo feathers, which stand in the centre of the area. Clusters of white feathers are worn on the forehead of the participants, held in place by a hair-string rope. Body paint lines are carefully applied to each woman and girl, with the chief custodian being painted first. Throughout the ceremony the women sing constantly of the story of their “Country”, and the food species that predominate and sustain life. First Nations People of Australia have no written language, so these songlines are the only way of passing their customs and secrets down through generations.