Freda Warlapinni Australian, Tiwi, c.1928-2003
Freda was born around 1928 in the bush on her own country Mirrikawuyanga on Melville Island.
Catholic Missionaries raised Freda after she was taken from her parents. She did not know her age and may even have been born later than 1923. She remembered being at Pirlangimpi on Melville Island during the Second World War and hiding from the planes as they flew over to bomb Darwin.
Freda lived on Bathurst Island until she moved to Milikapiti on Melville Island about 1970 when her husband Alvin John Burunjamidi and her brother-in-law were working at the local sawmill. She had 4 children: her first child Linus was born in 1950 and her youngest Pamela was born in 1963.
Her painting experience was specific to painting for ceremonies until 1996 when she had the opportunity to paint on canvas and paper at Jilamara, and later printmaking. Her own style of art was very influenced by watching her father and the designs he created painting on ceremonial pukumani poles.
The late artist’s work has been exhibited throughout Australia and abroad, and is represented in national and international collections.
Freda was a woman of seeming contradiction. Both forceful and frail, her strength of spirit belied her petite physical appearance and age. Her paintings too are something more than they appear to be. Their vitality and exuberant energy give the impression of spontaneity in application, but fascinating to watch was her slow, carefully applied, deliberate methodical strokes. Her compositions of dots, lines, blocks of colour had over time become a particularly minimal design with the focus turning to the rhythm, movement, and energy of mulypinyini (line) interspersed with her ‘wildflower’ (Japartinga – tree orchid) – a delicate small blossom which grows in the bush during dry season – which is how she described her pwanga (dots).