Our original piece on Greg Weight Stories behind the Images was published on 4 September 2018.
In September 2016, Michael Nelson Jagamara’s 1984 work, Five Stories set a Sotheby’s auction record for an Aboriginal artist (reported here by his manager, Michael Eather at Fireworks Gallery). Only a couple of months before this record-breaking sale, Michael Nelson was in Sydney for the launch of a Telstra installation of his art in Martin Place.
Greg Weight: I met Michael Nelson Jagamara in 1999 when we visited the place where he was conceived called Pikilyi. It was the White Cockatoo Dreaming Site and its significance for him was clearly meaningful. Michael stood stroking the surface of the huge egg like rock with the palm of his hand and softly singing as he watched the sun dip beyond the western horizon.
When we met again in 2006 in Papunya, Jagamara, as he was known, had recently been to Paris for an exhibition and had reached international recognition. He had already become recognized nationally for the mosaic mural on the forecourt of the new Parliament House in Canberra.
A proud man who has achieved much, Michael stands for me in this portrait on the road leading to his hometown, Papunya, where he prefers to sit down and paint in his own time.
Greg’s uses the name ‘Cookie’ when he talks about Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, a nickname Paddy earned during his time as chef at Papunya. The ‘Yuendumu school doors’ Greg refers to are on display at the South Australian Museum.
Greg Weight: In 2006 when I made this photograph of Paddy ˜Cookie’ Stewart, he was staying in a townhouse in Alice Springs. Although he lived at Yuendumu, 300 kilometres west of Alice Springs where he painted his Dreaming, possum, bush potato and frog it was necessary for Paddy to be close to a hospital where he could receive regular dialysis treatment.
I felt sorry for this much-loved artist who could no longer live in his tribal community, due to kidney failure. Paddy was instrumental in beginning the Yuendumu art movement back in 1983 when he assisted the old men in the painting of the school doors. Back in1971 he was also involved in painting the Papunya school murals that kick-started the modern Aboriginal art movement.
Paddy Japaljarri Stewart died in 2013.