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Jimmy Pike – Japingka Waterhole

$880.00 inc. GST

Jimmy Pike (c1940 – 2002) was an outstanding Walmajarri artist and innovator born in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia.

Pike’s family was one of the last groups to move out of the desert, settling at Cherrabun station in the Kimberley region in the mid-1950s. As a young man, Pike saw windmills, car tracks and other signs of European settlement for the very first time, on cattle station country.

His emergence as a contemporary artist and innovator is the stuff of legend. Songlines is delighted to stock a range of his limited edition prints.

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  • Medium: Screen print
  • Size: 450 x 650 mm (image) and TBA (paper)
  • Paper: n/a
  • Edition: 80
  • Published: c1989
  • Studio: Desert Prints Fremantle


Water sources are sacred places to Aboriginal people of the desert, and each waterhole has a Creation story from the Dreaming attached to it. The Creation story gives the waterhole and the people who are its custodians a common bond and obligation. While traditionally Aboriginal people are nomadic in the sense that they follow the seasons in searching out native plants and hunting native animals, they stay within their own clan estates. This is the territory ‘owned’ by individual families, who have an intricate knowledge of the country and its resources. Waterholes found on their country are known precisely, from their Creation story through to the sense of whether the water will be present or drying up.

Japingka waterhole was one of the larger desert waterholes used by Walmajarri people of the Great Sandy Desert. After summer rains came to the desert it would fill up and provide enough water for the animals and the local people to gather here for a short time. During the rest of the year the people would move in small family groups to smaller waterholes, and so would not meet up with all the other groups until the next summer rains.

As a major meeting place, Japingka waterhole would be the site where all social, legal and ceremonial matters would be undertaken for the larger group

Jimmy Pike Biography

Jimmy Pike was born near Jila Japingka a major waterhole around 400 kilometres south of Fitzroy Crossing in the Great Sandy Desert. Jila are desert soaks that never dry out. The word ‘jila’ is often translated by desert people as ‘living water’, indicating the importance of these sites.

Jimmy Pike first explored felt-pen drawing and linocut printing in the early 1980s. As an inmate at Fremantle Prison, Pike attended art classes organised by Stephen Culley and David Wroth, who would later establish Desert Designs and become collaborators.

Jila Japingka is a significant subject in Pike’s artwork and appears in many prints and drawings, including some of his earliest prints. Pike also created artworks depicting the spirit who lives at Japingka.

In 1986 Jimmy Pike was released on parole to a desert camp with members of his family at Kurlku on the edge of his country in the Great Sandy Desert. That same year Pat Lowe, a British born psychologist who had met Pike in Broome Prison in the late 1970s, joined the artist at Kurlku as his partner and collaborator.

From 1990, until Pike passed away in 2002, the couple were based in Broome, from where they could both visit the desert and travel internationally to attend exhibitions of Pike’s art.

Acknowledgement: AIATSIS

Pike had 14 solo exhibitions between 1985 and 2001 and participated in many more group exhibitions. His works are held in collections all over the world.