In Melbourne, galleryist, Aboriginal art lover and bon vivant William Mora has lost a long fight with cancer; and at Kalka in the distant APY Lands, founding artist at the Ninuku Art Centre, Molly Nampitjin Miller has died at 75.

William Mora was destined to find a home in art as his French migrant parents were Mirka, who died in 2018 still painting at 90, and restaurateur Georges. The family had arrived in 1951 and were soon close to John and Sunday Reed, art patrons and founders of the Heide circle. Georges later established the Tolarno Gallery and iIt was there that Willie began his career. But he soon set out on his own at William Mora Galleries in 1985. Latterly it was housed in Richmond with his home and Mirka’s magical studio filled with a lifetime’s clutter.

It took a while for Willie to discover Indigenous art, but his wholehearted enthusiasm for it and its creators soon took over. Buku Larrnggay, Maningrida, Papunya Tula and Bidyadanga community art exhibitions flowed into Melbourne. But his greatest commitment was to the Jirrawun Group set up by his fellow gallerist, Tony Oliver, in partnership with the Gija artist Freddy Timms.

Timms, Rusty Peters, Phyllis Thomas and Goody Barrett all had shows. But both men’s greatest passion was for Paddy Bedford and his art. In 2005 I had the honour to be invited to accompany Bedford on a farewell helicopter tour of his important sites in the East Kimberley – a searing experience which lead to a catalogue essay, ‘Heart of Blackness’ for a solo show of that name in the Mora Galleries that June.

After the Manambarrany (senior lawman) died, Mora was absolutely the right person to represent his estate – for he’d been party to the holding back of artworks throughout the artist’s brief career.

Willie was equally passionate about his mother’s art and career, presenting more than 50 solo exhibitions of her works, overseeing editions of her prints and liaising with museums over the loan of her works for exhibition.

Mora, 69, leaves behind his second wife Anna Mortley, their 12-year-old daughter Carlotta and two adult children from his first marriage – Fred and Lily.

From the APY Lands today came the news that “It is with great sadness that we announce the recent passing of Molly (Nampitjin) Miller, a highly respected elder of the Pipalytjara and Kalka communities and a founding figure of Ninuku Arts.
Molly was born in the bush around 1948 outside of Papulankatja and grew up in the Warburton mission. Sister of seminal Western Desert painters Pantjiti Mary Mclean, Elaine Lane and the late Jimmy Donegan, Mrs. Miller later settled in Amata with her husband and five children, Judy, Christopher, Delores, Janice and Tracy, and her adopted children David, Samuel, Matthew before moving to Kalka.

A legendary “True Bush Woman”, as she often referred to herself, Mrs Miller was an original and prolific weaver with Tjanpi Desert Weavers, punu carver and a board member for Maruku Arts. She was also a strong advocate and teacher of traditional land management techniques with APY Land Management. She was passionate about sharing culture with young people as well as service providers in the community.

“When I was a little girl we walked everywhere, there were no motorcars then. Always walking, around and around, and around. This is a happy place for me. Looking after children, lots of rabbits, lots of maku (witchetty grub), lots of honey ants. We were really happy back then. This is a beautiful place”.

In her painting, Miller depicts the rocky Country surrounding her birthplace, Wakapulkatjara. As she paints, she recalls her travels between Papulankutja and Mantumaru, traversing puli (rocky outcrops) and tali (sand hills) and stopping at rockholes related to her father’s Tjukurrpa.

The viewer becomes immersed in the painting’s gentle shifts in tone and form. There is no need to gain bearings. Through this work, Miller invites us to travel the contours of her Country beside her, appreciating the rhythmic nuances of her sprawling homelands.

A mother and grandmother to all who needed one, Mrs. Miller loved and was deeply loved by all who had the good fortune to know her. She is sadly missed by all the Pipalyatjara and Kalka communities.