Wik and Kugu revive women’s heritage painting

Wik and Kugu Arts Centre participated in a number of online exhibitions this year including Tarnanthi, DAAF and CIAF. DAAF was a standout event with many Wik and Kugu artists selling their beautiful paintings and carvings to keen audiences. The art centre also took part in some smaller exhibitions at Cairns Art Gallery and NorthSite Contemporary Arts. Demand for Wik and Kugu paintings and sculptures has been very high during 2021 and with border restrictions easing, the centre hopes to take all of its hardworking artists on a development trip across the Cape.

Wik and Kugu welcomed three new full-time arts workers this year - Heather Koowoortha, Phillip and Daniel Marpoondin, who have been assisting the many talented artists living in Aurukun. The Wik and Kugu Arts Centre has been focused on the revival and reactivation of women’s heritage painting practices. Throughout 2021, a number of workshops were held with arts development specialists to reinvigorate these practices. These workshops were highly successful with senior women artists including Vera Koomeetta and Janet Koongotema producing and selling some beautiful large-format works for the very first time.

Janet Koongotema is one of Wik and Kugu’s senior artists and the 83-year-old is a respected weaver who adapted her skills to painting a decade ago. The Winchanam woman’s bold paintings represent her country around the Archer River on the southern Wik lands and some include images of the dilly bags she weaves from green grass. Janet lived in the Aurukun Mission dormitory while she was at school and went on to teach at the school. Janet reflects, “(Superintendent) McKenzie said he would find me a good man and he found husbands for the six girls working at the school. I am the only one left.” Janet was 21 years old when she married in the Aurukun church and says Mackenzie was true to his word finding her a good man who has since passed on. She has five children and five grandchildren and is proud to still be living in her own home.

Main image credit: Janet Koongotema painted up in her Clan colours Image: Wik and Kugu Art Centre

View Our Newsletter

Latest Issue The Archive

Donating to IACA

Learn More

IACA programs and events receive financial assistance from the Queensland Government through the Arts Queensland Backing Indigenous Arts initiative, from the Federal Government’s Ministry for the Arts through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, the Australia Council for the Arts and Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund - an Australian Government initiative. IACA supports the Indigenous Art Code.

Scroll to top


All donations and your support of IACA are both greatly appreciated.

Optionally select a specific project for your donation.
Your name will not be displayed.
Donations are processed securely through PayPal. A PayPal account is not required to make a donation.