The black pearl

Julie DOWLING: artist

Not On Display

About the work

This painting is about the slavery of First Nation men and women in the
early pearl industry in Cossack, Derby and Broome in the north-west of
Western Australia. This painting shows the transition from first nation
divers to Japanese and Malay workers. Many of my male and female
ancestors were marched out of the interior deserts around Lake Moore
to do this work. They had never seen the ocean before. The boss-man in
the hat has a black pearl in his hand, which was and is still highly sought
after. When a diver found a black pearl, they were made to work harder
to find more in the same location.
Pearl diving was an extremely dangerous job and the lives of countless
First Nation divers, both men, women and children, were expendable.
Early sympathetic accounts from Reverend Gribble noted the
ruthlessness and cruelty of the pearling bosses over our ancestors.
These bosses and the government of the day pocketed large profits.
Slave divers were paid in basic food and shelter. Their deaths were
The black pearl
Artist/Maker and role
Julie DOWLING: artist
synthetic polymer paint, red ochre and metallic paint on canvas
100.0 x 120.0 cm
Credit line
Gift of Brigitte Braun, 2017
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.