Donny Woolagoodja Australian, Worrorra, b. 1947
Donny, chairman of Mowanjum Artists Spirit of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation (MASWAC), is the fourth of ten children. His father, Sam, was the last of the Worora banmen (lawman and medicine man).
Donny's remarkable upbringing bridges the white Christian beliefs of which he became aware at the mission churches, and the ancient Wandjina laws his father taught him. It allows him to move easily between his Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.
The influence of his father and grandfather can be seen in Donny's art, which illustrates the many stories of the land to which he belongs. Soon to be a fully certified teacher of fine art, majoring in Aboriginal Art, Donny was a finalist in the 1999 Telstra National Indigenous Art Award and won the WA State Images Art Award 2000. His work was a feature of the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Donny Woolagoodja was born at Kunmunya Mission on the remote NW Kimberley coast. Donny was educated in two worlds, understanding both the mission, white world, and the deeply held traditional beliefs of his people. Like his father, he worked on boats, and became a skilled navigator.
The waters off the coast of the Wororra lands are some of the most treacherous in the Kimberley, with huge whirlpools, and an extreme tidal range.
Donny was named after one of these whirlpools. He says about his Wororra name,
" This is my Ungud. I was named for this whirlpool Karram muddu. It's up near Ausustus Island. Thats where my Ungud comes from. My father Sam Woolagoodja named me. There's a snake in that salt water whirlpool, Warndum"
As a small Child, Donny was moved with his family to Mowanjum, near Derby well south of Wororra homelands. He watched his elders paint the Wandjinas on bark & boards and learnt the stories of Lai Lai (Creation).
After his father's death in 1979, Donny took responsibility for the land, and for passing on traditions of his culture. He became active in the pursuit of Native Title and continues this work today. Donny also began to paint, and quickly became one of the foremost artists of Mowanjum.
Donnys Wandjina Namarali was featured at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games.
In 2005, "Keeping the Wandjinas Fresh", the story of Donny's inheritance of his father's Law responsibilities, was Published by Fremtantle Press Co. - written with Valda Blundell, the book is in its second printing.
Donny has maintained his strong connection to Wororra country, living for long periods at Yaloon (Cone Bay), visiting & looking after Wandjina sites, and teaching new generations of artists.