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Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford

1920 – 2007

Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford (1920/1924–2007), also known as Goowoomji or Guwumji, artist and Gija elder, was born on Bedford Downs Station, near Warmun in Western Australia. As was so for many of his contemporaries, he was given the surname Bedford based on his place of birth, with his first name believed to have come from that of the station manager, Paddy Quilty. As a boy and a young man, Bedford worked as a stockman on cattle stations in the district, receiving rations such as tea, flour, sugar and tobacco in return for his labour. In 1969, on the introduction of legislation allowing for equal rates of pay for Indigenous and white pastoral workers, Bedford and many other Aboriginal people lost their jobs. Bedford and his wife were then sent to live on a mission, their three children having been taken from them. As a senior law man for his people, he had been involved with ceremonial painting for many years but did not begin painting on canvas until 1997, when Jirrawun Aboriginal Arts was established. Bedford’s work drew on ancestral Dreamings, his country and historical events, including a series of paintings depicting the poisoning murders of Gija men on Bedford Downs in the 1910s. In addition to his several solo exhibitions, Bedford’s work was included in landmark group shows such as Blood on the spinifex (Ian Potter Museum of Art, 2002–2003) and True Stories (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003). A retrospective of his paintings was held by the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007; and his work is represented in major collections such as those of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Musée du quai Branly, Paris.

Updated 2018
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