Born East Kimberley, Western Australia c.1930, died Warmun 1998
Queenie McKenzie grew up on Texas Downs station, surrounded by limestone hills, waterholes and boab trees. A Gija woman, her paintings express her strong connection to this land and its stories.
Argyle diamond mine is a striking composition, painted using ochres and natural pigments ground from the surrounding country, and features the soft pink colour and gritty texture which is characteristic of many of McKenzie’s works. Abstracted into diamond shapes, McKenzie depicts the hills, with the road between Lissadell station and Texas Downs winding through their centre.
The Gija people’s association with the area of the Argyle diamond mine in the Carr Boyd Ranges goes back many generations. The ranges are the site of the ngarrangkarni (Dreaming) legend of the daiwul (barramundi). The story has it that a barramundi was being chased by a group of old women and swam into a cave near the area now known as Barramundi Gap. Trapped, the barramundi swam back toward the women and jumped over them, landing in the Ord River on the other side and making the gap in the ranges where the main mine now sits. As she jumped, the barramundi shed her scales, leaving them behind in the shallow water to become the diamonds that are found there today.
Queenie McKenzie has become one of Australia’s notable female Indigenous artists and has been included in many major exhibitions. Her work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all major state galleries and many other public collections.