Balinji (1997)

Queenie McKenzie

Limestone Hills Near Texas Downs
Earth pigments and natural binder on canvas
95 x 89.8 cm
Collection of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Natural pigments on canvas
91.5 x 121.7 cm
Collection of Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Earth pigments on canvas
152.2 x 91.4 cm
Collection of National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Date unknown
Ochre on canvas
80 x 100 cm
Private collection


Queenie McKenzie (1915–1998) depicted the Aboriginal experience through bold autobiographical canvases that offer insight into life on the remote cattle stations of the East Kimberley region in early twentieth-century Australia. This posthumous selection of McKenzie’s paintings portrays the rich cultural traditions of her community and land. In the style of other Gija artists, McKenzie imbued each canvas with hand-collected and crushed natural pigments in a luscious array of earth tones, which she punctuated with pink and purple ochres. These images unearth the troubled history of the Gija people’s post-British settlement, shedding light on the social issues that her community navigated. Works such as Balinji (1997) and Limestone Hills Near Texas Downs (1991) meld memory, cultural knowledge and the natural world into a sacred living landscape