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The subject of the painting is one of the designs painted by the Senior Kitja men on the Gurirr Gurirr (dancing) headboards for Rover Thomas’ corroboree. This particular headboard is titled Jimpi and Manginta at Jukulmirri. Charlene was given permission by Rover to paint this and his other designs whilst she worked at the Care Hostel in Warmun prior to Rover’s passing. During this time, she was privy to many of the techniques of the Master Painter who obviously could see the talent of the young girl.
The Gurirr Gurirr Ceremony story is based on a series of “dreams” which came to Rover Thomas early in 1975, after the devastation of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve in 1974. These dreams were turned into what is now a very important corroboree.
The Gurirr Gurirr production and performance involved many Gija community cultural leaders who were connected as ritual custodians and site owners. Many such as the late George Mung Mung, Hector Jandany, Jock Mosquito, Churchill Cann (Charlene’s father), Jack Britten, Timmy Timms and later Peggy Patrick contributed to the painting of the boards (which were carried on the shoulders of dancers) often with the assistance of ‘apprentices’ like Lena Nyadbi.
In the early 1980s Thomas and company toured the Gurirr Gurirr to surrounding districts, performing at a number of cultural gatherings at Guda Guda (Nine Mile) and Woorreranginy (Frog Hollow) with notable performances at the newly formed Kimberley Land Council bush meetings. The Gurirr Gurirr also toured the Northern Territory communities of Maningrida, Victoria River Downs Station and Lajamanu (Hooker Creek). This cross-communal activity encouraged cultural exchange and strengthened community links. The first performance of the Gurirr Gurirr in a non-Aboriginal community occurred in 1983 at the Aboriginal Arts Festival in Perth at what is now Curtin University. It was again performed in 1998 as a tribute to Rover Thomas after he passed away, at the opening of NATSIAA (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards) in Darwin and at Hector Jandany’s funeral in October 2006 at Warmun as a tribute to Jandany’s role in the Warmun art movement.