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Michael Nelson Jagamara

"Milky Way Dreaming" by Malcolm Maloney Jagamara


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  • 170cm by 90cm
  • Painted with acrylic paints on canvas

About Malcolm

Malcolm Maloney Jagamara was born in 1955 at Aningie Station in Central Australia. He is the son of Minnie Napanangka (sadly deceased) a traditional Warlpiri woman and Gerry Maloney, an Irish stockman. As a young child Malcolm lived a relatively traditional Aboriginal way of life spending time on country and travelling the land on walkabout with his mother and family.

Sadly as part of the “Aboriginal Assimilation Program” of the time whereby all Aboriginal children who were deemed fairer skin were forcibly removed from their families and placed into “white” environments to be assimilated. Malcolm’s mother would often hide him whenever patrols of government officials would visit. At age six Malcolm was discovered on one of these patrols and removed from his family. He was taken to Adelaide where he spent the next eighteen years of his life. He matriculated from Adelaide Boys High School in 1972. In 1975 he started a career as a professional footballer for North Adelaide, and this would last 10 years and earned him a place in the publication “200 Unsung Heroes and Heroines of Australian History”.

In 1978 Malcolm returned to Alice Springs in Central Australia and was finally reunited with his family for the first time since 1960. His family predominantly come from Willowra Community however he also has strong ties to Yuendumu and Yuelamu (Mount Allen). In 1983 Malcolm underwent the traditional Warlpiri manhood initiation and ceremonies that he missed as a boy. With this he was then taught the secret songs, dances and stories of his Warlpiri tribe. Malcolm describes himself as a Lander River Warlpiri.

In 1985 after watching the Aboriginal art movement for two decades Malcolm made his first attempts at his own interpretations of his Dreaming stories. After what he describes as a “moment of desperation” his uncle Willie Reilly Japanangka took him under his wing and supported him to explore his artistic talen. Willie Reilly was one of the first people to start painting in Willowra Community. His initiation allowed him to depict the following dreamings; Fire (Jardiwanpa), Water (Ngapa), Goanna (Wardapi), Snake (Warna), Milky Way (Wulyparrari), Green Snake (Yarriprir), Budgerigar (Ngatjirri), Seven Sisters (Napaltjarri Warna), Rock Kangaroo (Marlu), Frog (Purruparnta), Tree Witchetty Grub (Ngarlkirdi), Bush Tomato, (Wanakji & Yakajirri), Bush Potato (Yarla), Bush Lantana (Marnakji), Bush Beans (Marlpa), and Rock Wallaby (Pirlli Ngawurrpa).

About the artwork

This Aboriginal painting depicts the Milky way. In the Dreamtime creation, it is believed the Milky Way, stars and planets were once men, women and animals. The stars represent campfires of the ancestors, who travelled the land and performed ceremonies at night. There are many mythology Dreamtime stories associated with the Milky Way. In Warlpiri language Yiwarra is the word for Milky Way. This Dreaming is a significant creation story, which is retold in artworks, song and dance as well as re-enacted in ceremonies. Yiwarra ancestors broke the Milky Way into individual stars that we see today. Some fragments fell to earth, creating sacred places.