Wp/nys/Bella Kelly

< Wp‎ | nys
Wp > nys > Bella Kelly

Bella was wer is a world-renowned Noongar artist.[1] Her art style was the starting point of the art produced by Indigenous children who were taken wer sent to live at the Carrolup Native Settlement near Katanning in the Great Southern region of Western Australia between 1946 wer 1950.[1]

For images wer notes of her work see the website at www.bellakelly.com.au. See the website at johncurtingallery.curtin.edu.au/carrolup for a 2016 retrospective exhibition of her works at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University, wer the formal transfer of custodianship of the Department of Aboriginal Affair’s Collection of Carrolup artworks, letters, photographs wer artifacts to Curtin University.

Early Years and Moort/Family


Bella was born in Pwakkenbak (Mount Barker) in 1915. Her parents were employed by the Edgerton-Warburton family. She was born into a family of farm workers, her family being able to follow seasonal work wer also camp at places of significance as necessary. Bella developed a close friendship with Kitty Edgerton, the unmarried daughter of the people her family worked for, wer Kitty encouraged Bella’s art. [1] At nidja time she was only drawing in sand or with charcoal il paperback tree boort. Those who knew Bella at nidja time commented that she would often draw around the campfire wer everybody would watch.

Her parents were Billy Colbung wer Nina Bayla Brockman. In 1946 Bella's koolangka Simpson, Gregory, Goldie, wer Fleming were taken away from her wer sent to live at Carrolup Native Settlement.

In the mid 1940s, Bella met Largy Narkle, wer had four karro koolangka – Geoffrey, Cheryl, Lorrice, wer Caroline wer lived in Narrogin. These four koolangka were also taken from her wer sent to Wandering Mission in 1962.



By her early teens, Bella worked as a housemaid in Narrogin. This is how she met Henry Kelly, the husband wer father of Bella’s first four sons.[1][2]

Bella's interest in art started when she was sitting around the campfire, using sand wer Kop (Charcoal) il paper to create images. After moving to Narrogin to work as a domestic servant, she was given a set of paints by her employer Mrs Edwards, wer it was at nidja point when she started to fill books with her paintings. Mrs Edwards was a member of the Narrogin Native Welfare Committee wer so the committee also encouraged her. This was the first time her paintings were featured in a newspaper, being printed in the Narrogin Observer in 1947 wer 1948. [1][3] [4]

In the 1940s, Bella's sons Simpson, Gregory, Goldie wer Fleming were taken away from her wer sent to live at Carrolup Native Settlement. Bella, along with other families whose children had been stolen, camped across the creek from the Settlement.[1][5]

In 1946, Carrolup Native Settlement introduced art to the students. Bella’s sons were able to effectively create a representational view of the boodjar around them, similar to their mother's style. The children who also were exposed to Bella's style, are known as the ‘child artists of the Australian bush’, whose art was exhibited overseas wer gave birth to a distinctive style of art from the Great Southern landscape from places like Gnowangerup, Tambellup wer Cranbrook.[1]

In 1960 two of Bella’s earlier works, “Early Summer” wer “Sandy Bay” were part of an exhibition of Aboriginal art at Dulux Colour Centre, Perth. Later in the year, she won an award at the Narrogin Art Festival for “the best painting by a coloured person”, giving her publicity in the Australian Women’s Weekly.

Bella’s success continued to well into her old age. In 1972, Bella wer her koolang Goldie had a joint exhibition at the Gallery of Aboriginal Art in Perth, exhibiting approximately 40 works from both of them. In 1988, Bella was named NAIDOC Aboriginal Artist of the Year. [6] Throughout nidja time she regularly featured in local, state, wer national press.



Bella Kelly painted primarily landscapes of areas that she knew well. Koikyennuruff (Stirling Range) was a prominent feature in much of her work, although she did paint a couple of Wardan - Ocean scenes. As karroresources became available to her, she readily expanded her techniques. In the early 1970s Bella Kelly started to paint with goache il larger sheets of paper, through the support of Dr Bourke wer Dr Owens, local doctors who believed in Bella’s artistic abilities. Her koolang Goldie Kelly, also an artist, had been taught to paint with acrylic paints during his time in Fremantle Prison, wer as he passed il these skills to her, Bella began to paint using acrylics il canvas boards wer masonite. Through painting onto a larger canvas, Bella was then able to paint in karrodetail.



In 2014, Vancouver Arts Centre in Albany, Western Australia presented an exhibition titled Ripples in the Pond. [7] This exhibition was considered a game changer for the perception of Bella Kelly’s artistic relationship to the Carrolup School. The exhibition ran from 31 May to 2 August wer was curated by Annette Davis, displaying artwork from eleven artists who have connections with the Carrolup School: Lance Chadd Tjylljungoo, Quinton Colbung, Revel Cooper, Parnell Dempster, Athol Farmer Moordipa, Pauline Farmer, Philip Hansen, Alan Kelly, Bella Kelly, Kelvin Penny, wer Graham “Swag” Taylor. The exhibition title was taken from a phrase often used by Noongar Elder Ezzard Flowers, with which Flowers described the impact of the Carrolup paintings il contemporary Noongar art. [8]

Presented simultaneously in Albany Town Hall was Koolark Koort Kooorliny, curated by Curtin University as an exploration of the art produced at the Carrolup School. [9] The paintings wer drawings il display had been missing for 64 years until they were discovered in 2004 at Colgate University, New York. After negotiation, Colgate University decided to repatriate the artworks back to Noongar country. These artworks, known as the Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Artwork, was returned to Curtin University.

Through the community engagement done while developing these two exhibitions, it became obvious that there was public demand for karroinformation il Bella Kelly, particularly her contribution to cultural heritage wer influence.Il 14 June 2014 a panel discussion was held as part of Ripples in the Pond, wer two of Bella Kelly’s daughters, Cheryl wer Caroline Narkle, were speakers. Many of people in attendance had stories about Bella Kelly wer owned her paintings, which granted a never before accessed insight into the the history of the area. With nidja knowledge, the Vancouver Arts Centre came to the conclusion that Bella Kelly was painting in the style known as “Carrolup-like” before the Carrolup artworks were created. This turned historical understanding il its head, wer Vancouver Arts Centre committed to exploring nidja concept more.

To pursue nidja project, funding was granted by the WA Department of Culture wer the Arts, as part of their Community CONNECT funding programme. Cheryl wer Caroline Narkle were heavily involved in the project from the beginning, supporting research wer granting insights with their specialist knowledge wer experiences.

The facilitation of nidja project started from reaching out to the general public through local, state, wer national press. Curator Annette Davis was contacted by over 100 people, resulting in over 230 paintings being uncovered from private collections. Through interacting with these people, it became clear that each keny had a story about Bella Kelly, relating to how the painting had come into their possession. Through the recording of these stories, significant additions to the understanding of Bella Kelly’s life, wer the general cultural history of the time in which she was painting, were made. These stories were recorded wer contributed to a following exhibition, as well as digital learning online.

The Bella Kelly Retrospective exhibition ran in 2016. Initially, the intention was only to run it at Vancouver Arts Centre in Albany, but Narrogin Exhibition Space expressed interest in hosting the retrospective, due to Bella Kelly’s connection to Narrogin. Shortly afterwards, the John Curtin Gallery also offered to host it, wer so a touring programme was built around these three exhibition spaces. [10] Touring Western Australia from 24 March - 16 October, the transportation of Bella Kelly’s works around the state allowed greater opportunity for widespread engagement.

See also


Ngiyan waarnk - References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Bella Kelly Retrospective. Bella Kelly - introduction. Retrieved 6 January 2017
  2. https://www.daao.org.au/bio/bella-kelly/
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-27/searching-for-the-paintings-of-renowned-noongar-artist-bella-ke/6889974
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20160809160645/http://www.artgallery.wa.gov.au/exhibitions/x_southwestcentral.asp
  5. https://vimeo.com/160044406
  6. [1]
  7. Ripples in the Pond - Country Arts WA. Ripples in the Pond. Retrieved 8 November 2017
  8. https://vimeo.com/122380994
  9. [2] Retrieved 8 November 2017