Raymond Walters Japanangka was born in Alice Springs in November 1975.
His grandfather’s country is Ngarleyekwerlang of Yuelumu (Mt Allan) and his grandmother’s country is Alhalkerre Atnangkerre (Boundary Bore) of Utopia. Ngarleyekwerlang is located 300km North West of Alice Springs. Boundary Bore is located 300km North East of Alice Springs. Both his grandparents come from the Anmatyerre language group. He also has extended family members from the Arrente, Western Aranda, Alywarre, Warlpiri and Kaytetye language groups. As a boy Raymond spent most of his youth out bush with his family and extended family members or in town with his mother living in Mt Nancy. Mt Nancy is an Aboriginal town camp located on the fringes of Alice Springs. Raymond’s mother was born in a creek bed not far from the camp.
“Growing up in Mt Nancy brings back a lot of good memories being around family and friends, but it was also a time of struggle for my people, my family. There was a lot of alcohol related violence, public intoxication and as children we wandered the streets, sometimes too afraid to venture back home. Most kids grew up in broken homes, in a way people may think that would have been awful, in a way it was sometimes, not having your own room, your own bed, your own processions, love and comfort. I remember my aunty calling me one year during Christmas, she said she called me to say she loved me and was proud of me. I handed the phone over to my partner because I was so emotional about it all. I really couldn’t remember the last time anyone had ever said that to me, if anyone had ever said that to me. That same aunty has been an inspiration to me throughout my upbringing, always kind and gentle with us kids, but also being there for us when we needed support and love. She even came to my first ever solo exhibition in Melbourne. We kids have witnessed and done a lot of things today I’m sure we regret. Silly kid’s stuff I guess. Although it sounds like I had a tough upbringing for which I did, we also had our culture, our elders who made sure we were taught about our cultural heritage, this was the balance in our lives. Our government was still taking away children from their families, I to spent time with non indigenous families, in foster care. I always wondered what was happening and why it was happening.
Today I understand and strangely enough I worked in the child protection field. I worked as an Aboriginal Community Resource Worker for a few years, ensuring when Aboriginal children came to the attention of our office for various issues (there is still a strong need to displace children from their families to ensure their safety and protection) had all avenues exhausted before non indigenous families were an option. There are a lot of wonderful carers out there, but the bottom line is that Indigenous children need to stay connected with families and their culture in a safe and protective environment.” (Raymond Walters Japanagka, 2008).
Aboriginal art has always been an important part of Raymond’s upbringing linking him to a proud history of well respected and well known artists of the Aboriginal Art World. Some of these Aboriginal artists include Jack Cooke Ngala (Grandfather), Ted Egan Jungala (Grandfather), Kudditji Kngwarreye (Grandfather), Emily Kame Kngwarreye (Grandmother-deceased), Minnie Pwerle (Grandmother-deceased), Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (Uncle-deceased), Lindsay Bird Mpetyane (Uncle), Margaret Scobie (Aunty), Maureen Hudson Nampitjinpa (Aunty), Mitjili Napurrula (Aunty), Barbara Weir (Aunty), Kathleen Petyerre (Aunty), and Gloria Petyerre (Aunty). Raymond has a long working history in Sport & Recreation, Remote/Urban Aboriginal Community Development, Family & Child Welfare, Alcohol & Other Drugs Awareness and Consultancy on Aboriginal Community Engagement policies and procedures. So pursuing a career in Aboriginal Art wasn’t a consideration for Raymond earlier on.
“I never really considered ever wanting to be an artist, mainly because I didn’t understand enough about art on canvas. I always thought you had to study art or be an Aboriginal senior elder. I knew art was an important part of our ceremonies, and that Aboriginal art on canvas was being sold all over the world. Apart from this my knowledge was quite limited”. (Raymond Walters Japanangka, 2006).
Raymond’s culture is very important to him and he freely shares these views through his life in work and by setting these values with his own children, nephews and nieces. He spends time talking to his children about their family their country and the many Dreamtime stories from his grandparents place.
Raymond understands the importance of telling the stories the same way he was told by his grandparents. The facts need to be known. The knowledge Raymond continually gains, is passed on to him through Aboriginal ceremony. This is still an important part of his life. Each year ceremonies are held on traditional grounds and land. Aboriginal Law is a very important component of Raymond’s identity as an Aboriginal man and gives him his place in his cultural land. He learnt at an early age to respect his elders and appreciate all that he has.
“Respecting my elders, common human decency and appreciating all the things I have in my life such as my family and health, I believe is the true essence of who I really am. (Raymond Walters Japanangka, 2007)
Occulture currently features 5 pieces of licensed art from Raymond Walters Japanangka Emu Dreaming series and pays royalties from jewellery in this collection.