Artist: Barbara Backstrom
- Language Group: Niggity
- Region: Derby, Eastern Kimberley WA, Australia
- Born: 1949
The artist is descended from the Niggity tribe. Few have survived; those who have can be found about 130 km east of Derby at Looma. The lines that run in different directions in the background of this print represent Niggity people’s land pulled and tugged in different directions. The Wandjina (ancestral creation being) call humans and their food chain together to learn to survive the turbulent future. People move through the picture, with gum leaves depicting the forests they travel through; the circle is the starting point, and the horseshoe-shaped drawings are meeting places, along with the campsites which are circular. The lizards are there for stealth and food while crossing the deserts.
Barbara Backstrom identifies strongly with her Aboriginal grandmother who came from the Fitzroy River country in the north of Western Australia, commonly known as the Channel country. Born in Derby, Western Australia in 1949, Backstrom has a rich heritage. Her mother is Aboriginal and Chinese whilst her father has an English/Jewish heritage. Her grandmother’s people were called Miangla of which there are very few people left.
Backstrom’s work often depicts the Dreamtime with the Wandjina looking over the people and the Rainbow Serpent who carved out the rivers and the gorges. Backstrom’s first artistic endeavours involved carving boab nuts for which she won the Aboriginal artefacts section in 1992 at the Derby, West Kimberley Craft Festival. The line she uses in all her work, including her lithographs, comes from her Aboriginal heritage, indicating the natural channel system of small creeks and rivers.
First Nations Fertility prints
This is one of a range of 14 limited edition screen-prints on paper exclusively available through Songlines. The prints have not been exhibited or offered for sale since 1999, the year they were created by eight Indigenous Australian women artists. Images of the prints were used as slides by Fay Nelson, then Director Aboriginal Arts Board, Australia Council, in her keynote address at the landmark Sydney IVF Fertility Conference held at Darling Harbour Conference Centre.
The prints and Dr Nelson’s essay ‘Aboriginal Fertility’ are documented in the conference proceedings published as Towards Reproductive Certainty – Fertility and Genetics beyond 1999 edited by Robert Jansen and David Mortimer with the assistance of Karen Coote, published by The Parthenon Publishing Group.
Provenance: Karen Coote