Like most Aboriginal artists from Central Australia, when Doris paints, it is always sitting down
cross legged with the canvas flat on the ground. It is in this position that she often sings or
hums a ceremonial song whilst applying the minute dots that will eventually reveal a
composition depicting an aerial perspective of the land to which she is connected, her
‘country’ near Yuendumu. The surprisingly rapid application of acrylic paint with a single
bamboo skewer is done to the tempo of the song and therefore it is really during the process
of painting where Doris is truly expressing her dreaming as opposed to any real attachment to
the finished product. In this sense a lot of Aboriginal art is perfomative as it has been for
countless years historically.
The main feature that appears repeatedly in Doris’s paintings are waterholes. These are not
always the water filled rockholes that dot the arid Australian interior but often subterranean
aquifers from which the women may dig for water.
It is her ceremonial duty then, to maintain a sense of connection and homage to these vital
components of the landscape that has been walked in Nomadic fashion by the Warlpiri people
for time immemorial. It could be said then, that the act of executing a painting such as those
produced by Doris is akin to the physical ceremonies performed through singing, dancing and
body painting that are still a strong part of Warlpiri tradition today.
Doris is a Warlpiri speaker who was born at Yuendumu in the Western Desert of Central
Australia circa 1970. However, she now lives at Willowra Community some 300km North
West of Alice Springs. As a semi traditional Warlpiri woman she has an intimate knowledge of
and association with particular dreamings including Bush Potato (Yarla) and Water (Ngapa).
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