Queenie McKenzie (1915- 1998) was born at Old Texas Downs Station on the Ord River, to the south-east of Turkey Creek. She grew up among Gija people and speaks Gija as her first language. Queenie was the first women painter to gain prominence in the East Kimberley school of painting. A close and long-time friend of reknown Aboriginal artist Rover Thomas, she worked with him on the Texan Downs cattle station.
As a young woman, McKenzie was a camp cook for the stockmen on the cattle station. She fondly remembered an incident that occurred about 1954, when she saved Rover’s life. He had been thrown from a horse and had scalped himself. She sewed his scalp back on so expertly that, even though she had never done such a thing before, doctors were later amazed. In time the incident became the subject of a number of her paintings. Queenie and her husband moved to Warmun in the 1970’s. Although never having children of her own she nevertheless ‘grew up’ lots of other children, whose mothers were unable to look after them.
When Rover Thomas began painting for the public domain, his work inspired Queenie McKenzie to take up painting herself. She preferred using natural pigments and included distinctive powdery pink and pale violet colours made from ochres that she mined herself. As she said, these colours appealed to her sense of beauty. In her compositions, she usually placed images of geographic features in rows against monochrome grounds. Queenie passed away in November 1998, less than a month after she had been awarded the rare honour of being appointed as an official “Living Treasure”.