‘Yilamara’ is the stem of the orchid that is native to Groote Eylandt. The stem was traditionally used as a brush for painting rock, bark and artifact’s. The sap of the orchid is used to mix with ochre to make it bind and ensure it remains’ for many years to come. The name ‘Yilamara’ was given to Russell Brown by the Anindilyakwa Elders and has been in his family for thousands of years.
Keeping his family culture alive, modern Aboriginal Artist Yilamara (Russell Brown), has come back to his traditional land of Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory to fine tune his skills as an artist and connect with his family and culture.
Born in Hornsby, New South Wales in 1983, his Mother’s family was originally from the Garawa and Mara tribes of South-East Arnhem Land. But being ‘half-castes’ they were removed from their families and placed into the Emerald River Mission on Groote Eylandt, where his Grandmother was born.
Russell’s Great Grandfather Harold Hamilton was the skipper of the mission lugger called ‘The Holly’ which had a crew of all Aboriginal people. The Holly, Harold and his crew would take people between the missions in the Gulf of Carpentaria and to pick up supplies from Thursday Island to take back to the Emerald River Mission. The Holly was very important to the Anindilyakwa people and is still seen in paintings on bark, canvas and some buildings on Groote Eylandt. It is also a main feature in many of the stories told by the Elders to this day.
Russell’s Grandmother, her mother and siblings were later relocated to New South Wales from the Northern Territory during World War II after the bombing of Darwin in 1942, while his Great Grandfather stayed on Groote Eylandt to guard the airfield along with his eldest son, only to be reunited with their family 4 and a half years later.
Returning to Groote Eylandt has allowed Russell to fine tune his skills and experience his culture through the guidance of Elders.
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