Books & Literature

Book Review: Shirley Purdie: My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe, by Shirley Purdie

PICTURE BOOK: Told in English and Gija, this is the story of Shirley Purdie, famous Gija artist, as told through her paintings.

A simple autobiography of a proud Gija woman telling her story and shining a light on her art work.

Magabala Books is based in Broome Western Australia and is Australia’s leading Indigenous publishing house. Shirley Purdie is the first in a series of picture books telling local Kimberley stories. The series will introduce children to the diverse stories and talent of Kimberley Aboriginal artists.

Shirley Purdie is essentially an autobiography in which she has included stories from the Dreamtime, rules for living, and her own story. Shirley Purdie is a story in which she shares her cultural knowledge.

Shirley is an artist with works hanging in galleries all over the world. In this book she tells us where she came from: her ancestors, her echidna and fire dreaming, her mother’s country. She tells us how bush tucker is found, how to catch animals, her story as first a maid on a station and then becoming an artist. It is HER story.

It shows the importance of the land and their past. It is succinct with just enough information for the children who would be her target audience. Each page is written in both English and Gija (her native language).

The beautiful ochre paintings in the traditional Warmun style complement the story line. This book gives the reader an insight into the meanings of the paintings and an understanding that all the artwork tells a story

Shirley’s hope is that young people can read the stories from the paintings and maybe want to start painting too.

This book would be a worthwhile addition to any school library. It would give young indigenous children a sense of identity, but also teach other Australian children about our first people.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: October 2020
RRP: $24.99

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