Bernadette was born in Mount Isa, and her island home is Mornington Island, (Baralkis). She moved to Groote Eylandt with her family when she was 7 years old. Bernadette learned from her brothers how to paint and the stories behind the paintings.
‘I would watch how they did paintings of the Wurlywin Man, Brolga Lady, rats and squid. I still paint some of those stories now. Because of my dad Arnold Watt, he was great artist. I just want to be like my dad. I have three children, one niece, one nephew, and a grandson. And I love my family.
When I first moved to Groote Eylandt with my mum, my dad Eric Amagula, my step father, he raised me up to be the person that I want to be. How to be strong and believe in myself.’
Bernadette paints, makes jewellery, plant dyes, screen prints. She enjoys doing everything with all the women.
‘We go out to Umbakumba community on the other side of the Eylandt, to Malkala (an outstation) and fly to Milyakburra on Bickerton Island to dye with other women. Sometimes we visit aged care too. The old ladies there like to do dyeing. Dyeing is good fun. It makes the women come together and chat while we dye. They really enjoy doing it.
We go out and collect old steel, dig out plant roots for the yellow dye and collect other leaves to make the black colour. We then come back to the Art Centre, crunch up the leaves and wrap the fabric tightly around bits of steel. We then boil up two billies, one with the yellow dye and another for black. When they have been in the dye long enough we wash them out and hang them to dry outside community.
I love living here in Angurugu. It’s a good place with friendly people you can look up to. It’s a nice place. My children grew up on Milyakburra, a community on Bickerton Island just off the coast of Groote Eylandt. There are lots of lovely fishing spots around Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island. I also love working at the Arts Centre here, doing dying and screen printing.
My artwork with my Aunty Annabell Amagula was nominated for a 2018 Telstra Art Award. We enjoyed making this film and it was very hard work for both of us. But we enjoyed it and we are so proud of what we have done, working with the two communities and Naina Sen and Aly de Groot. And we are both proud of what we have done together.’
Bernadette works for the rehabilitation management team at the local mining company GEMCO, supervising a team of Warnumamalya staff who collect seeds and grow plants to rehabilitate areas where manganese mining operations have cleared the land. As an artist who weaves with ghost nets and recycled materials as well as natural pandanus and bush dyes, Bernadette knows the importance of caring for Country and her rehabilitation work is an extension of how she does this for her Country, her community and future generations.
|Angurugu : NT|