Shirley Prudie, My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe by Shirley Purdie published bt Magabala Books. Gija translation by Eileen Bray.

I am Shirley Purdie. A long time ago my mother danced with the women at Mabel Downs. The men made music. Happy times.

This is a beautiful story told by Shirley Prudie in both English and Gija. Shirley is a prominent leader in the Warmun community (see where Warmun is), a talented artist and a cross-cultural communicator.

Her story is one that shows her connection to the land and her culture, the work she has done to support her family through caring for country, listening and learning from her elders, hunting on the land but also working as a maid at Mabel Downs station.

She also describes the support she has been given along the way to help her develop her skills as an Indigenous artist.

Alongside this story which is told in both English and Gija, are Shirley’s paintings which reflect  her country and the artistic ways of her people. They are steeped in earthy colours and meaningful symbols. This artwork is great to talk over  – look at the colours used, the lines and the dots and how they all come together to show meaning. 

Shirley Purdie: My Story, is an excellent picture book to inspire young artists so that they see how working towards a goal needs hard work and sometimes jobs that we may not love on the way – but we do them to support ourselves and our family.

The final pages of the book outline more about Shirley’s life, her exhibitions and the Warmun Art Centre where she works.

How can you use this book in the classroom?

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Literacy

  • Autobiographies & biographies: what is the difference in how they are told?

Visual Art

  • How do different types of artwork tell a story? Look at the different uses of lines and dots to show part of Shirley’s life. 

Study of People

  • What are the characteristics of Shirley that make her a person in our society that people look up to? Find other people in your country who also have these characteristics and discuss why they have similar traits.

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