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Indigenous artist's epic project to begin days after first solo exhibition

Dianne Bortoletto -

On Thursday, 1 February, artist JD Penangke starts work on a new mural at Fremantle Port, Western Australia.

The work begins just weeks after she opened her first solo exhibition on January 14.

The artist's working name JD Penangke comes from the initials of the artist herself, Jade Dolman, and Penangke is the skin name inherited from her father's line.

Ms Dolman, a Whadjuk/Balladong Nyoongar (mother's side), Eastern Arrernte (father's side) woman from Perth, said that holding a solo exhibition was beyond phenomenal.

"It was a huge honour and privilege," the 28-year-old artist said.

"It's so much bigger than a birthday or graduation, because I've specifically gone out of my way to build skills to make creating art a job, it's part of my identity and when I create, I express different parts of myself."

Ms Dolman officially established JD Penangke in 2014 while she was studying at the University of Western Australia, a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Indigenous Knowledge, History and Heritage and Fine Arts.

The first piece of art Ms Dolman sold was one she created for a university project.

"I sold my first piece nine years ago when I was doing a site-specific project about the Swan River, and after I finished it, a contact of a friend of a friend in America wanted to buy it - I felt like I created money out of thin air! It felt crazy that someone would value something that I had created," she said.

"Creating art has always meant so much for me, but I didn't consider that it meant anything to anyone else. Selling that first artwork was really special."

Image: Jade Dolman.

Since graduation, Ms Dolman has added to what is now a long and impressive CV including work at Optus Stadium, at Boola Bardip WA Museum, designing the Indigenous jersey for the Perth Scorchers 2021-2023 seasons, and a welcome project at Perth Airport for the opening of WA's borders.

Soon, Ms Dolman's art will welcome cruise passengers to Western Australia when she completes her mural on the external surfaces of the enclosed gangway at Fremantle Port.

During the 2022-23 cruise season which typically runs from August to May, 33 cruise ships carrying 87,000 people disembarked at Fremantle Port across the gangway.

"The gangway is an interesting canvas because from the ship, you can see the top and the side, and from land, you can see both sides; I'm painting all three sides," Ms Dolman said.

"The first stage of my process is to collect stories of the site that are connected to our Dreamtime and culture, and it's such an important site, the hardest part was choosing which direction to go in.

"Walyalup, Fremantle, is a significant place for the dingo and Dwertawirrinup or Cantonment Hill, is the place of the dingo spirit where it watches over the area, and this mural will be about the dingo Dreaming story."

When asked what her own dream is, Ms Dolman said she would love to be a travelling mural artist and create art all over the world.

The Fremantle Port gangway mural will take about three weeks to complete and is supported through Jina: WA Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2021 – 2025.

For more information, visit

Image: Jade Dolman.


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