Born 1930 Sunday Island, Western Australia. Bardi People
Roy Wiggan is a Bardi elder who is attempting to preserve some of his people’s traditions through
his art, song and dance. The objects he makes are Ilma, totems used in ceremonial dance and
ritual. According to Wiggan he and a group of artists in the Kimberley are the only remaining
people that make these objects. The Ilma were not made for exhibiting; they were not traditionally
made for white people to see but Wiggan has made the choice to show these works in the hope
that by allowing them to become part of collections, they will be preserved and the younger
generation of Bardi people will be able to continue the traditions and knowledge.
The Ilma of the Bardi people are complex in design representing a range of symbols that highlight
aspects of Bardi stories including plants, sea animals, whirlpools, tides and smoke signals.
Contemporary Ilma, like Starfish 2004 are made from brightly coloured string, cotton wool, acrylic
paint and plywood reflecting the coastal landscape of Sunday Island and Dampier Peninsula (Nth
of Broome). Traditional Ilma are made from bark, ochre, hair and feathers.
Each Ilma has a song and a story, which Wiggan doesn’t share. The stories and songs that
accompany the Ilma have been passed down for thousands of years. Wiggan is visited in his
dreams by his father, mother or brother who will bring a design for each Ilma that Wiggan makes.
Many of the Ilma created by Wiggan relate to an experience of Wiggan’s father who was once lost
at sea for days on a flimsy raft only to be miraculously returned to land by freak tides.