Nipper Tabagee Scholarship Recipient Creates Hope and Harmony through Art

Ngadarb Francine Riches (nee Davey) is a Bardi Jawi and Karajarri woman and has been an artist for over thirty years. She is currently living in Melbourne and undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy at the Victorian College of the Arts—a long way from her home at One Arm Point on the Dampier Peninsula. 

Ngadarb’s PhD thesis is about healing through the arts and also explores Bardi Jawi oral history. Growing up with strong faith and belief, as well as traditional and cultural knowledge of Aboriginal lore, motivated her to return to study. Through her study, she is exploring the way art can be used to relieve suffering. 

As part of her thesis, she developed visual arts and painting programs to help people cope with their daily lives, particularly people who have suffered traumatic experiences, such as the stolen generations, or time in prison. When people paint their lives, it gives them a sense of harmony and peace. 

Underpinning all her work is a deep sense of respect for the old people. 

“I have a hunger to help our people and I am amazed by our old people, for what they have done for us and left us with. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today,” Ngadarb says.  

With suicide rates increasing over the years in the Kimberley, Ngadarb has observed some senior people and elders losing hope for the next generation. She is trying to create hope, by teaching our generation from the modern world about the old days and about ways of growing up on country with our ancestors.

In addition to her thesis, another way she is doing this is by writing a book called ‘My Story’. ‘My Story’ talks about indigenous trades, languages, culture, traditions, knowledge and values—all of which are about respecting our people and ourselves, the proper way, the cultural way. 

In the future, she’d like to see the stories gathered in ‘Healing through the Arts’ digitalised and displayed at mental health businesses, organisations and institutions nationwide. She would also like to develop computer games to improve the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical capacity of younger children living in Indigenous community across Australia. 

Ngadarb is grateful to KRED Enterprises and the Ambooriny Burru Foundation for the Nipper Tabagee Scholarship. She is determined to finish her studies so she can continue educating our kids to walk in two worlds.