Helen Dale Samson
circa 1943, Jigalong, Western Australia
Jigalong, Western Australia
Helen Dale Samson is a Martu woman, born circa 1943 at Jigalong mission. The mission was originally established as a support store for workers constructing the Rabbit-Proof Fence. This iconic landmark gained international renown following Phillip Noyce’s film adaptation of Doris Pilkington Garimara’s book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.
With no memory of her parents, Samson grew up at the Christian mission, heading to the bush to hunt and camp with extended family on weekends and during holidays. After she married, Samson lived around Puntawarri, a now abandoned community between Jigalong and the Canning Stock Route.
Fluctuating between figurative and abstract styles, Samson paints the ancestral Jukurrpa (Dreaming stories) of her Country around Karlamilyi and Puntawarri. Samson’s work often depicts contemporary Martu life in a post-colonial setting, incorporating motifs such as houses and heavy industrial vehicles alongside important Martu sites.
In this untitled painting, Samson depicts the area surrounding the community of Jigalong in the Eastern Pilbara. This is her ngurra (home Country), where she lives with her family.
Samson leaves the viewer to their own devices in contemplating this work – a satellite perspective of a vast and nuanced landscape, or an intricate study of the smallest of its elements?
Regardless of the answer, Samson’s intricate iconography undulates across the gentle lilac background creating a beautiful visual meditation.