An image of Rai

Roy Wiggan

(Australia 1930 – 2016)

Broome, Kimberley region
Language group
Bardi, Kimberley region


Not on display
Further information

Ilma describe both the object and the ceremony performed by Bardi people. Roy Wiggan received the stories embedded in his Ilma’s from his father, after his passing, through a series of dreams. Wiggan’s Ilma predominately revolve around life at sea experienced by his father, Henry Wiggan, a Bardi man of the Kimberly region who skippered the Sunday Island Mission lugger. His adventures and misadventures in the Indian Ocean inform the Ilma that are used as dance apparel in the ceremonies associated with the stories, as well as being works of art. The Bardi seafaring peoples’ homeland includes one of nature’s phenomenon, the Buccaneer Archipelago, a marine environment abundant in treacherous tides, rips, whirlpools and overfalls of which, a number of Wiggan’s works reference. The stories that were given to him aid in understanding the landscape and Bardi Ngarrangkarni (lore and culture passed down from the ancestors).
‘Rai’ is a child spirit or soul before it is reborn, wandering around looking for a mother so that it can be reborn and enjoy life again. The art centre certificate states “It sings a song about being sad and lonely, about the sun and the eyes going down about wanting to dance and play and be active looking around for its mummy.” This Rai spirit sits with its legs crossed and arms folded with its head resting in its hands, similar to a young child sulking.

Place of origin
West Kimberley, Western Australia, Australia
acrylic on plywood, cotton wool
87.0 cm x 64.0 cm (irreg.)
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2018
Accession number
© Estate of Roy Wiggan