Nardaparli “My culture tells me that I cannot turn my back on the saltwater”. Nadaparli, Wreck Bay, Feb 22, 2017

The paintings of Vida "Nardaparli" Brown capture the spirit of the South Coast of NSW. A limited number of high quality, numbered and signed prints is now available for sale until stocks are sold out. Only 100 signed prints of each painting will be released.

Nadaparli began her education at the Wreck Bay Mission Primary School. She and her class mates were later moved to the Naval Base School at Jervis Bay. She later attended Nowra High School and completed two years towards a Bachelor of Health Science and Aboriginal Economic Development at the University of Sydney.

It was only in the 1990s when Nadaparli began a TAFE course in art and design that she started seriously painting. She felt a great “contentment” and “powerful energy” flowing through her into her paintings. She felt “the old people guiding her ”.

It was from this time that Nadaparli began a series of paintings inspired by her saltwater visions “each one is guided by the old people and the mother itself”. These paintings seem to shimmer with meaning and their great detail is something that has inspired and awed people from the first moment she started to paint.

Detail from Stingrays 2021.

The detail of Nadaparli’s work is breath taking and it often takes several concerted gazes to appreciate its complexity and beauty. Viewers often spend many minutes looking at the works and it is as if they disappear into a great well of creativity that emerges from them. Nadaparli’s paintings have become an inspiration and point of great pride for the Aboriginal people of the South Coast and the wider community. In 1995 Nadaparli completed the famous stingrays painting which celebrated the beginning of the joint management of Booderee National Park by the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community and Enviroment Australia. This painting has become a famous image that unites the Aboriginal people of the South Coast and gives a spirit of belonging and welcome to visitors to the Jervis Bay area.

Another image from this period is of the seven sisters. Nadaparli painted this after a visit to Kings Canyon where the seven sisters began their journey. They were chased by a bad spirit and as each one was killed their spirits went into the galaxy and can be seen today as the pleiades constellation of stars. Nadaparli paints as if she is in the stars looking down on the Australian continent. It is an extraordinary work that not only provides us with a unique perspective on this ancient story but in a modern sense re-connects song lines between the South Coast of NSW and the desert communities of the centre of Australia.


Seaweed, Wreck Bay

But it is the saltwater and the memories she has looking out the window of her mothers house at Wreck Bay that most inspire her and which she wants to continue to paint. Nadaparli lives on a disability pension and her works have never been collected and shown. Whenever there is a public mural or poster to help the community or the national park she is quick to lend a hand but she lacks the means to complete the paintings she has in her minds eye.

The paintings she has done of the migration of whales and dolphins along the south coast overshadowed by Pigeon House mountains take many hours of thinking and planning before they emerge on canvas. These designs have a perfect form and a continuity of vision that flows through her works

Coastal eucalyptus, Booderee National Park.

Wreck Bay fisherman are renowned and the Ardlers, Browns, Mc Leods, Moores and other Aboriginal families provided the Sydney fish markets with some of its finest produce for many decades. At the turn of the century there were several Aboriginal fishing companies at Wreck Bay and the community is intimately connected with the ocean. In a time honoured ritual families know the saltwater seasons and when salmon, mullet and tailor are starting to run. In years gone by the catch would be caught and then kept in the estuary nearby then gathered up and taken by horse and cart to Bomaderry Railway Station and then transported to the Sydney Fish markets. It was an extraordinary land based fishing community and the tradition still continues.

Nadaparli’s paintings provide a unique view of this past. Her crabs paintings pay tribute to the cleaners and workers of the sea shore. “When I was a little girl the men used to bring in great catches of fish and there was always these sand crab cleaners doing their work. My painting has the woman’s womb. The mothers and children they cleaned the water and the sand.”

There are two further paintings that are in Nadaparli’s mind. She wants to paint an image she has of the sacred sun fish that lives in the sea near Wreck Bay. “I saw a sunfish from Mary’s Hill. It was bigger than a house. I thought it was a shark. But its fin was flapping.”

Rocks, Summercloud Bay

The second painting is of a memory she also has as a little girl. “One day my mother called me and I looked out on Summercloud bay and all I could see was taiils flapping. 90 pilot whales had beached themselves on the sand. We walked up to them and looked them in the eye and told them. ‘You will be all right, you’re coming home now’. My mother told me. The whales have come in to walk on the land. It’s the old people coming home. My mother was always standing there, smoking and looking outside to the bay.” There is a lot more deep meaning to all of Nadaparli’s paintings. But even the surface story is of great depth. “The stench of the dead whales came through the whole community. It was a real overpowering smell. They had to be buried. This was a time when the community was run by white managers and we were not allowed to leave the mission. We used to swim in the creek behind the beach. For many years we walked from the creek to the sea and we could feel the spirits of those whales and you could hear those whales. We were not allowed to walk where those whales were buried out of respect. We would wash ourselves in the saltwater and our parents would ask us where have you been walking and they were glad that we washed the smell of the creek from us. That saltwater has cleansed you and made you pure.”

Nadaparli has recently finished a mural at the Wreck Bay Primary School and kindergarten. The story is of the gift of three cycles of hunting, life and prosperity: “Beewingmurramungoo (Sea eagle) watches over the minjeke (skyes) and Gupo (waters) ,being carried by Goorama the( Winds) Looking for Ngjullie ( Foods ) Hunting Ghundinjar( Whales) Traveling their Ngjullie (Feeding) trails through the Gupo (Oceans Waters) keeping the song lines moving with Nature Sharing it. Respect for Life. Murrum(Fish) Cleaning the Gupo (Oceans ) Floors and Sea Beds that Help make all Life Happy and Well. Look After Your Ocean Gardens, for You are the Gate Keepers YUGRANG NGULLA, MOTHERS HEART BEAT.”

“While painting the stingrays my memory was from my childhood swimming. I was looking down watching the the mother sting rays and their babies swimming below.”

Booderee Stingrays Full size 60 X 90 CM Print $500 A2 Print 40 x 62 CM $250, 100 per cent cotton fine art paper, A limited edition of 50 signed and numbered prints is available.

Booderee Stingrays is one of the most iconic images of the Jervis Bay region. (See https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/6151450) It was painted to commemorate the 1995 Wreck Bay Land Rights legislation that transferred the Wreck Bay Mission to Aboriginal ownership and the return of 6312 hectares to Aboriginal ownership creating Booderee National Park and Booderee Botanic Gardens. The original painting was used as a poster for Booderee National Park and those posters are actively sought after. However, after it was painted the original painting disappeared for many years and was only returned to the family after being found in the basement of a Wollongong house. The authenticity of the original painting, which was verified by Vida, is indicated by the chipped bottom right hand corner of the painting. Now a limited number of high quality prints is available for sale. The story of this painting is deep. The tracks around which the stingrays swim are the primordial pathways of Yuin people dating back thousands of years when the ocean shore was many kilometres to the east. It symbolises the bond between the Yuin community and the land and seas.

Budawang Burning Full size 60 X 90 CM Print $500 A2 Print 40 x 62 CM $250, 100 per cent cotton fine art paper, A limited edition of 50 signed and numbered prints is available.

When the 2020 bushfires ravaged the south coast of NSW, Nardaparli remained in her Wreck Bay community and watched as the mountains turned red. Many evacuated. Nardaparli saw more than just the fire. She saw the deep spirits of the mountains in the flurescent red glow from Gulaga (Dromedary) to Didthul (Pigeon House) mountain. She also saw spirits rising up from the ocean around her. Her Budawang Burning painting is an icon of 2020.

Nardaparli made these comments about her painting. "It's a true painting. It's what I and we as a people and all of the Yuin nation see." "There was fire everywhere you looked". "The women are the fire keepers. They are able to carry the spirit of the dolphins up into the sky and galaxy and they continue on in their journeys protecting all of mother nature's glory" "When Europeans first came to the Shoalhaven they were hungry and they went out in a rowboat and shot at the dolphins.. when our women heard this they picked up rocks and hit themselves and wailed and wailed.. " "When the fires were raging.. the spirits were showing their shapes and forms.. during the fires all my people were taking photographs showing the spirits they were coming out of the trees and everywhere.." "..they are too strong.. especially at sunrise and sunset.." "When we visited Uluru the old ladies said "why do you come all this way from Booderee and see these spirits and have this spiritual connection straight away.. its because we are in tune with our mother". "We looked down the coast and the black smoke and white smoke and flames.. .. it was something I have never experienced before in my life.. I hope my grandkids don't have to go through that.. but its going to get worse.. people are playing around with things they shouldn't be..." "We've been burning the right way for thousands of years.. we've always taken care of the land.. " "Didthul.. that's tear drop dreaming.. when she cries.. after there's been no rain for a long time.. she cries and fills up all the rock pools.. that's sacred water.. thats where we women go with our babies.. men's places are around too, but not on that mountain.. its tricky hey" "Didthul is shaped like a woman's breast.. she's related to the northern stories of the sisters.. I don't know how I know all this.. I have the ear and the passion to listen to the old people telling stories and when I am doing my artwork I can feel them guiding me.. and I am thinking I can't stop this painting.. I want to keep on going.." ".. all the stories of the sisters up north they are connected to our stories here.. Gullaga lake is water from the central desert.. thats why it has the best oysters in the world.. an elder from the Central Desert told me that.. she said that's a big story.."

Part of the proceeds of each painting are donated to Breast Cancer Research and a small contribution goes to help the ongoing work of the ISX. As noted above Nardaparli’s paintings are available as signed limited edition prints on 100 per cent cotton fine art papers. They are available in two sizes A2 40X62cm $250 and full size 60X90cm prints for $500. To order your print please clearly indicate which print and size and the number of prints you would like in an email to: Dr. Peter Botsman, Voluntary National Secretary, ISX at peter@peterbotsman.com with your order. An invoice will be sent to you and when it is paid the prints will be created and forwarded to you. After the invoice is paid we can usually turn around prints quite quickly (within a week depending on the time of year). Prints may be picked up directly from Arthead, Moss Vale, NSW or for an additional cost mailed in a tube to you throughout Australia or internationally. Framing is also available through Arthead, Moss Vale, NSW and a framed print can be mailed for a further additional cost. We would also welcome inquiries about acquiring a licence for digital copies of Nardaparli prints.

Vida's great great grandfather "King" Mickey Johnson
Vida's great great aunt Ellen Anderson

Biography:Vida “Nardaparli” Brown was born at Berry Hospital, one of thirteen children to her namesake Vida Brown I and George Brown. On her mother’s side Vida is related to Agnes and Jimmy Johnston and her great grandfather and great grandmother were the famed King Mickey and Queen Rosie of the Illawarra. Vida says her mother always talked about “Budawang” people. Vida lives and paints at Wreck Bay Aboriginal community. Her father George Brown was one of the Yuin leaders who halted a series of potentially disastrous environmental developments including the creation of a major naval base at Jervis Bay in the 1980s and the development of a nuclear power plant in the 1970s. George championed his people's right for decades and was one of the principal advocates for the Wreck Bay Land Rights legislation that transferred the Wreck Bay Mission to Aboriginal ownership and which returned 6312 hectares to Aboriginal ownership creating Booderee National Park and Booderee Botanic Gardens in 1995. Vida's brothers and sisters are actively involved in the self determination of the Wreck Bay community and are active participants in the Aboriginal Community Council. Most significantly George was a custodian of traditional stories of Jervis Bay. The Brown family's paternal links are to the Yuin people from Wallaga Lake to the Shoalhaven River. On Vida's mother's side she is related to the Illawarra, Gweagal and Bundjalong peoples. On her mothers side Vida is the great grand daughter of Rosie Burragalong-Davis and Mickey Johnson. They were known as King Mickey and Queen Rosie of the Illawarra in the 1890s - however Mickey Johnson was a Bundjalong man from the Clarence River area of northern New South Wales. Rosie was the daughter of Paddy Burragalong Davis known as the Chieftain of the Illawarra tribe and Biddy Giles who was a senior member of the Gweagal people of the Georges River and Botany Bay. Vida's great, great aunt Ellen Anderson (nee Burragalong-Davis) recounted many traditional stories in early compilations of South Coast Aboriginal language and stories. Ellen with her husband Hughy travelled the country in the 1890s from Maloga Mission on the Murray River to Kangaroo Valley where they tried to start an independent community to Kiama and the Georges River in Sydney.

Vida painting at home at Wreck Bay with her grand son


Photograph Peter Botsman Print production: Arthead Moss Vale, NSW,