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Tanisha was born in Derby and is the daughter of Mt House station workers Nancy Wungundin and John Allies.
Nancy is a Ngarinyin woman and John comes from Perth. John came to the Kimberley as a young man to work as a ringer. Nancy and John brought their family up on Nancy’s Ngaranyin land in the Imintji community which is up the Gibb River road. Tanisha’s earliest memories are of hunting “Bullomanna” or wild bulls. She would go out with her dad in a bull buggy to hunt and fish for Bream in billabongs with her mother near Mt House.
She moved from Mt House to nearby Imintji Community when she was around three years old. “I had lots of fun at Imintji, checking out all the new fishing holes and rivers. All of my family, Samantha Leroy, Montana, Linlely, Billy, Michael, and Dion would go looking for hidden waterfalls. I was the youngest, mum and dad would always worry about me. I used to go on the bus from Imintji all the way to Mt Barnett for school. I wished we could have stayed there but we decided to move back to Derby for our schooling. I feel really homesick when I go back to Imintji. Mum and dad did so much work up there.” Tanisha arrived in Derby with her family when she was 7 years old. “When we first arrived we lived in tents on the edge of town, then we went to live in a caravan with Gordon Smith, (Daliwun), at Mowanjum. I didn’t seem to fit in there. I was too much of a bush kid. I used to hide in the bush. Sometimes when people came from up the Gibb Road there was 15 people living in the house. After we waited for 4 years we got a government house.” “I was always collecting Boab nuts for my mum to carve, I loved climbing trees. I still like it now. When I was 10, mum made me a knife and taught me how to carve. One day I was walking to Woolies and saw a sign saying ‘Norval Art Gallery.’ I went and told my mum and dad. They told me to take one of my Boab nuts down there and see what happens.
I recognised my Primary Art teacher Mrs Norval. I felt good. Mark Norval couldn’t believe how good I was. He said, ‘You can’t be that good! Show me how you carve.’ Straight away he said I was the best carver he had ever seen. All of my first nuts he put straight into the glass display cabinets with a ‘Not For Sale’ sign, he loved them so much. Mark and Mary gave me some canvas to paint on and showed me how to do fine details with a brush. I painted Wandjinas from my mother’s country.
I remembered the cave paintings that Alfie White and Yvonne Burgu showed me at Gibb River Station. They even showed me ‘Wanallirri’, the most famous Wandjina cave site of them all. I have had big success at Norval Gallery, I have sold lots of paintings and Boab nuts”.
Tanisha has won the Kimberley Youth section of the Kimberley Art Prize once again, making it four wins in a row.