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Bardyal (Lofty) Nadjamerrek

Bardyal was born some time around 1926 in the stone country of the Mann River region of western Arnhem Land. He was a Kunwinjku speaker and spent most of his youth on various clan estates in the region. He was taught to paint rock art by his father. When a young teenager, he walked 200 kilometres to Maranboy where worked in a tin mine. This was his first contact with white people.

His early artistic experience was in painting on the walls of rock shelters in the headwaters of the Liverpool River. His rock paintings of a kangaroo, a horse with rider, emu and goats still survive.

After a while he moved to Katherine where he was employed as a stockman. When World War II broke out, Bardyal was forcibly rounded up along with many others and moved to Mataranka army camp where he was made to chop wood and load cargo trains. He was aged around sixteen at the time - when he was also involved in a large number of traditional ceremonies.

After the war, Bardyal went to Oenpelli to work as a buffalo shooter. He also cut timber and planted market gardens. He was married by then to Mary and already had three children. They have had a further five children since then.

He began painting works for sale on bark in 1969 at Oenpelli and has developed an outstanding reputation first as a painter on bark and more recently on paper, using traditional ochre pigments.

His X-ray style of painting is strongly linked back to the tradition of painting on rock and his own experience as a young man. He is particularly known for paintings of Ngalyod and Yingarna (the Rainbow Serpents) and other mythical beings.

In 1972 Bardyal left Oenpelli and returned to clan lands in western Arnhem Land and in 1988 he moved to Gamarrwagan where he has lived ever since.

Lofty possessed a rich store of mythological knowledge. As a ritually senior man, he was responsible for Ancestral sites and mythologies from his own patrilineal clan lands (father's country). For this reason he was known as Djungay (manager).

His works are held in the National Gallery of Australia, National gallery of Victoria, Australian Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney) and numerous other museums and major collections.

He passed away in 2010.
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