Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr / Australia QLD 1936 -2010 / Alair Pambegan (Collaborating artist) / Australia QLD b.1966 / Wik-Mungkan people /Bonefish Story Place 1994, reworked 2003 / Carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments / 15 components: 280 x 650 x 50cm) installed, approx.); five bonefish: 50 x 25cm (each); seven bonefish: 100 x 30cm (each); 2 poles: 300 x 20cm (diam., each); crossbar: 20 (diam.) x 500cm / Purchased 1995 with a special allocation from the Queensland Government. Celebrating the Queensland Art Gallery’s Centenary 1895-1995. With additional components commissioned 2002 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / © Estate of the artist; and Alair Pambegan

Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr
Bonefish Story Place 1994–2003

Not Currently on Display

Bonefish Story Place tells the story of two brothers who walked from the tip of Cape York looking for a place to make a home, finally settling at the end of the Small Archer River, which is the country where Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr was born.

The brothers fought over a young woman and the older brother was killed. The younger brother regretted his actions and went into the river where his sibling had fallen. Neither returned. According to the story, they turned into bonefish, which are silver fish that live in the shallow tropical waters.

These sculptures were carved from milkwood, when the tree is green and soft. After the bark is removed with a small axe, copious amounts of milky white sap are left to run out. The logs are then shaped and painted Wik-Mungkan patterns in colours derived from ochre and charcoal.

An elder of the Wik-Mungkan people, Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jr lived in Aurukun, a small Indigenous community on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula. Pambegan grew up in Aurukun at a time when the Presbyterian mission regulated daily life.

He was raised in the boys’ dormitory, separated from his parents, until he was old enough to work, variously, as a pearling diver, timber and canecutter, ringer (cattle drover), yardman and housepainter.

Arthur’s father, Arthur Pambegan Sr, was also a highly respected elder, who taught him traditional knowledge and the carving techniques used in his ceremonial sculptures.