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Article: Stories Handed Down Through Many Generations

Aboriginal art Australian fashion brand traditional artist dreamtime story
aboriginal art

Stories Handed Down Through Many Generations

Mainie is founded on a commitment to support Aboriginal women living in isolated communities in Central Australia. Through our creative collaborations with Aboriginal art centres, we provide opportunities for women artists to earn an independent income from their own work and to preserve their unique cultural heritage for future generations.

The authentic Aboriginal artwork featured in Mainie’s Central Desert fashion collection is ethically acquired from the world acclaimed Warlukurlangu art centre.

Established in 1987 in the former mission community of Yuendumu, around 300 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs, Warlukurlangu has long been an important stronghold for the preservation of the culture and language of the Warlpiri Aboriginal people.  

Due to the geographic remoteness of their tribal territories in the Tanami Desert, the Warlpiri were among some of the last Aboriginal people in Australia to make their first contact with Europeans.

Today, the Warlpiri continue to live much as their ancestors did. They maintain their traditional culture, speak their own language, and still have a strong physical and spiritual bond to their hereditary homelands.

Each piece in the Mainie collection brings to life an ancient Dreaming story that has been handed down to the artist by her ancestors over tens of thousands of years. The stories are as old as time itself and keep alive the Warlpiri culture for successive generations.

At Mainie, we are privileged to work with Aboriginal women artists and support their aspirations to pass on their stories to their daughters and granddaughters.

One of Mainie’s proudest achievements is our collection of original paintings by four members of the same family: highly esteemed Warlpiri matriarch, Bessie Nakamarra Sims, her daughter, Alma Nungarrayi Granites, her granddaughter, Geraldine Napangardi Granites and her great-granddaughter, Athena Nangala Granites.


Australian aboriginal art traditional warlpiri woman artist"I like painting ‘cause it's my Dreaming. I like to teach kids my Dreaming. I want everyone to know my Dreaming from all over the world. I know and they can know."

Bessie Nakamarra Sims was born in the bush in the 1930s and lived for many years on her Warlpiri homelands before coming into contact with white people at Mount Doreen Station, west of Yuendumu.

Bessie was the wife of Paddy Japaljarri Sims, a renowned artist both nationally and internationally. Bessie and Paddy were among the founding artists with the world acclaimed Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation when it was first established in 1985. Paddy passed away in 2010.

Bessie and Paddy had seven children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Bessie was one of the most valued members of the Warlukurlangu artists community. She painted consistently with Warlukurlangu and exhibited both nationally and internationally in group exhibitions.

Bessie often painted the Ngapa Jukurrpa, a traditional Water Dreaming story. For desert people like the Warlpiri, water is the very essence of life. The rare but welcome occurrences of rain and storms continue to be a significant theme in their art and ceremonies.  

Bessie passed away in Yuendumu in May 2012 surrounded by her extended family. Among of her last words were, "Japaljarri is calling me, he is waiting for me."

In the Mainie collection, Bessie’s original painting, Ngapa Jukurrpa, is brought to life on our exquisite Desert Rain Dreaming silk scarf. 

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Australian aboriginal art traditional warlpiri woman artist“I want my art to tell the story of my ancestors and be able to show the world my culture and my traditions.”

Alma Nungarrayi Granites was the daughter of Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Bessie Nakamarra Sims, founding artists of the Warlukurlangu art centre at Yuendumu. 

Alma was married with four children. She had many grandchildren and spent much of her later life helping to take care of them.

 Alma lived at Yuendumu and attended the local school.  She then continued her studies at Kormilda College in Darwin.  Alma completed a teacher’s assistant diploma and worked as a teacher aide at the Yuendumu school for many years.

Alma commenced painting in 1987. In 2007, she decided to explore her painting skill in more depth and started working at the Warlukurlangu art centre every day to produce a body of work that expanded her knowledge of the traditional Warlpiri Dreaming stories. It was during this time that Alma developed of her unique technical art style.

Alma had an influential involvement with the Warlukurlangu Artists and participated in group exhibitions nationally and internationally, culminating in two solo shows, one in Singapore in 2010 and one in Germany in 2011. Alma also had solo shows within Australia.

Alma painted a wide array of stories, all of which were handed down to her from her Warlpiri ancestors. She was best known for her distinctive depictions of the Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa, an ancient Warlpiri Dreaming story about the Seven Sisters, who are seen in the Pleiades star cluster in the night sky. 

Alma passed away in August 2017.

Alma’s original painting, Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming) is featured on a limited-edition release of a pure cashmere scarf that was created by Mainie exclusively for the Australian Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo.

Australian aboriginal art traditional warlpiri woman artistGeraldine Napangardi Granites was born in Yuendumu and has lived there all her life. Geraldine is the daughter of Alma Nungarrayi Granites and the granddaughter of Bessie Nakamarra Sims.  

Geraldine has four children, two sons and two daughters. She is a shy person who is very involved with her large extended family and enjoys being around children and helping the family’s grandchildren. 

Geraldine paints with the Warlukurlangu art centre and has gained a reputation as an artist who has developed a unique, modern interpretation of her traditional Warlpiri culture.

Geraldine paints the Mina Mina Jukurrpa, an ancient Dreaming story that has been passed down to her through many generations of her ancestors over the millennia.

The Mina Mina Dreaming is an important woman’s story.  It describes how the Warlpiri women journey into the desert country to gather a tree vine called Ngalyipi.

The rope-like Ngalyipi vine has many practical purposes in everyday Warlpiri life but it is also used by the women for their sacred ceremonies. Ngalyipi has been long known for its healing properties. The vine can be chewed or used as a tourniquet to relieve pain.

In the Mainie collection, Geraldine’s original painting, Mina Mina Jukurrpa, is brought to life on our colourful Medicine Tree Dreaming silk scarf. 

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Australian aboriginal art traditional warlpiri woman artist

“I learnt to paint by watching my mother, my sisters and my grandmother paint.”

Athena was born in 1994 in Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to Yuendumu. She has lived most of her life in Yuendumu, attending the local school and graduating from Senior Girls Upper School in 2009. Since leaving school Athena has gained work experience in the office at Mt Theo, a community-based program that provides training in youth development and leadership.

Athena is married and has one son. Although young, Athena comes from a long line of artists. She is the daughter of Geraldine Napangardi Granites and the granddaughter of Alma Nungarrayi Granites. Athena is also the great granddaughter of Bessie Nakamarra Sims.

Athena has been painting with Warlukurlangu since 2010. Her depictions of her mother’s, grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s traditional Dreaming stories perfectly capture the rich ochre colours of her Tanami Desert homelands, aesthetically contrasted against the vivid blues of the Outback sky.

Athena’s original painting, Ngapa Jukurrpa – Puyurru (Rainmakers’ Dreaming) will soon be available as a beautiful wearable art piece in an upcoming Mainie collection.

Every Mainie we make gives back to the Aboriginal woman artist who created the original design, to elevate and empower her, her family and her community.

Charmaine Saunders - Mainie Founder

All Aboriginal artwork designs featured in the Mainie fashion collection are ethically acquired under licence in compliance with the Indigenous Art Code.

Under the terms of the licensing agreements, royalties from Mainie’s sales are paid to the artists. When an artist passes away, their royalties are paid to their family members in accordance with their wishes.

Mainie is a Supply Nation verified Indigenous owned business and an Indigenous Art Code approved dealer member.

Mainie is the exclusive official provider of Indigenous fashion and apparel to the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Learn more about the Mainie story at:

indigenous art code supply nation ethical indigenous-owned business expo 2020 dubai

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