NWC News Desk

Aboriginal artist, storyteller, writer comes to Northwest College Feb. 3

Posted January 21, 2011

POWELL, Wyo. — A custodian of the Australian Wardaman Aboriginal traditions will share his world at a 4 p.m. presentation Thursday, Feb. 3, in the Nelson Performing Arts Center at Northwest College in Powell.

Formally acknowledged as one of “Australia’s living national treasures,” Yidumduma Bill Harney is an elder and the last senior male Aboriginal custodian of the Wardaman people.

His lecture, “Aboriginal World-Wardaman Dreaming,” is hosted by the ongoing NWC International Studies Scholar Lecture Series.

Harney was born between 1932 and 1936 in Australia’s Northern Territory. His biological father was the famous Irish-Australian writer William Edward Harney, but he was brought up in a traditional Aboriginal community by his adopted Aboriginal parents.

Harney is recognized throughout the world as an artist of high esteem on many different stages. He is a master storyteller, song man, didgeridoo player/maker, painter, and writer.

His art is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Federal Parliament House and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and is exhibited at ArtMob Gallery in Tasmania.

Harney appears regularly on TV, radio, and film, often speaking on the subject of Aboriginal astronomy. In August 2009 he was featured in “The First Astronomers” show with astrophysicist Ray Norris at the Darwin Festival, and in November 2009 he was prominent in the “Message Stick” program on Aboriginal astronomy produced by ABC TV.

His work on Aboriginal astronomy is presented to the public at the planetarium of the University of Colorado. In “Dark Sparklers,” a book he co-authored with Hugh Cairns, Harney details the astronomy embedded in the Wardaman culture.

Wardaman country is home to hundreds of internationally recognized significant rock art sites, including many that continue to be used to educate about songs, traditional stories and painting. Harney works to preserve the knowledge that is associated with those paintings.

All his art forms have the deepest roots in the celebration of his Wardaman Aboriginal heritage and his unique ability to “walk in both worlds,” communicating the joy of his culture to a global audience.

Harney’s life is chronicled in his autobiography, “Born Under the Paperbark Tree.”

Paul Taylor, renowned Australian storyteller and didgeridoo player, will serve as host and translator for Harney’s lecture in Powell.

The lecture is free and open to the public.