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Meet the Artist

Jack Dale Mengenen

Jack Dale Mengenen




Skin name




Western Australia

Jack Dale Mengenen (c1922- 2013) painted the stories of the Kimberley through the eyes of a man who experienced the history of place directly in his own life. His paintings are a revelation – gritty, scarred ochre paintings, often figurative, telling stories of events that took place in the landscape that Jack Dale knew well.

The Wandjina figures are authoritative, sometimes shown with the sites where their exploits took place. The historical and personal stories relate to an era where Aboriginal people were hunted and shot, or imprisoned in chains and removed from their country. Images of police chain gangs, massacre stories and enforced labour gangs are set against stories of station life and missionary settlements. The journeys made are alive with history – Jack remembered specific journeys with donkey carts, Afghan cameleers, drovers on horseback, blackfellas on foot.

Jack Dale Mengenen was born out in the bush at Mt House Station in the west Kimberley around 1920. His early life was moulded by the experience of conflict between cultures. Jack’s Aboriginal mother, a Ngarinyin woman, tried to keep her son away from his violent white father.  Jack Dale senior was known for his brutal character, having once shot his own son in the leg to stop him from running away.

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When his father died, Jack Dale returned to his mother’s family and was brought into traditional Ngarinyin Law by his grandfather. His traditional country is Imintji, located near Mt House Station. Jack went on to lead a remarkable life that bridged both cultures. He was a highly regarded head stockman and bushman as well as a respected tribal Elder and Lawman.

After retiring from a life on the stations Jack Dale began painting in the 1990s, working with traditional ochre pigments. He has made large ceremonial boards used by traditional dancers to re-enact Dreaming stories. He has used his extensive cultural knowledge to record aspects of the Wandjina Dreaming sites of his people. He has also recorded his own memories from a long life lived at the frontier of Kimberley life, recalling the historical changes he had witnessed.

Jack Dale Mengenen’s paintings are a remarkable account of life in the Kimberleys over eight decades. Aboriginal art status – Highly regarded artist.

Selected Exhibitions:

2000    Jack Dale – Senior Law Man, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2001    Kimberley Works, Burrinja Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2001    Jack Dale- Djumba Ceremonies, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2001    Wandjina, Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney NSW
2002    Jack Dale – Kimberley History, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2003    Jack Dale, Kintolai Gallery, Adelaide SA
2004    Jack Dale, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne VIC
2004    Jack Dale- Narrungunni Dreamplaces, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2006    Jack Dale – A Kimberley History, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2006    Jack Dale, Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney NSW
2006    Jack Dale, Framed Gallery, Darwin NT
2007   The Stockman & the Medicine Man: Jack Dale & Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA
2011   Jack Dale Mengenen, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle  WA

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