A huge loss

Australia recently lost another of its national treasures. Paddy Bedford was one of the prodigeously talented Gija artists of the East Kimberley. He was doubtlessly one one of the greatest artists this country has ever produced. You can read obituaries here and here (WARNING: Photo) and see for yourself the wonderful legacy he has left behind (a, b, & c).
Lots has been written and there’ll be much more written yet. I just thought he thought he was a beautiful man. When he was young he earned the name Kuwumji, because Kuwumjingarri nginini, ‘he went around combing his hair’. Even as a kid they reckoned he was a dude. But as he got older, he was *the MAN* (WARNING: on left in photo). But more importantly he was one of the nicest people you could hope to meet. I have many fond memories of camping on the verandah in Kununurra at Frances Kofod’s house where he had his bed. He would wake up every morning to the view of Kelly’s Knob. Life could be worse.
He was the only person I know who shared my passion for Spaghetti Westerns. We’d sit back with a glass of ‘lemonade’ and cheer while Lee Van Cleef would showem all who’s boss.
One of the main reasons he lived to be 85, or however old he was, is because he was so well looked after by Frances and her son Rowan. He was well-fed and healthy and happy. Apart from being an astoundingly good linguist, Frances is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Nambijin, you’re one of the world’s truly unique individuals. Your loss is all of our loss.

5 thoughts on “A huge loss”

  1. Hi All, I’m a beginner when it comes to indigenous aussies but enjoying your blog. Is there a link I can read that explains why some aboriginals don’t want to see photos of deceased people? (sorry for off-topic comment)

  2. This is hard question to answer as to why? I don’t feel very comfortable about saying why because I’m not Aboriginal and I’ve never asked anyone. Though I think the underlying reasons are religious. Certainly it can be upsetting for relatives. I imagine the reasons relate to the other practice of not using the names of the deceased.
    Certainly in some communities when a person dies photographs are hidden and the person’s names may go out of circulation for some time. Quite how long for seems to depend on how old or important the person was, and how close a relation is the deceased person in question. I think these issues are locally managed on a case by case basis. My experience is that it pays to be circumspect. People will make their own decisions about whether they want to see a photo or not. Some people want to. For others it’s too upsetting.

  3. It’s one of those things that just *is*. Imagine having to answer the inverse question “Why do white people look at photos of dead relatives just after they’ve died?”… or “Why do white people talk to their mother-in-law”…
    I remember being totally stumped the first time someone asked me where my country is… white people don’t have country… at least not in the same way Aboriginal ppl have country…
    ps. just back from the ‘intervention’… i should try n blog about it hey…

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