The illustrated literature of Solomon Cocky: turning the Dreaming into books

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1946, hundreds of Aboriginal workers left their place as indentured labourers on pastoral stations in the North-West of Australia. They went on to organise their own artisanal mines and buy their own pastoral stations, organising themselves collectively against the Australian government and the interests of local pastoralists. Some 30 years later, the ‘Strike Mob’ as they are remembered, established a school with its own publishing programme, making books in the Nyangumarta language so that the next generation would be able to read and write an ancestral language. Solomon Cocky Ngalyarrkiny (d. 1933) was a storyteller and illustrator for this programme, but his books went beyond the needs of the school, with a vocabulary and a distinct, confident mode of illustration. In more than 300 illustrated stories Solomon made a distinct body of literature, turning the printed book from a Western form into an Aboriginal one. The politics of the strikers are reflected in Solomon’s independent spirit, not only in his prolific productivity but in illustrations that adapt the Aboriginal Dreaming to the rectilinear form of the page.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-47
Number of pages21
JournalWorld Art
Issue number1
Early online date6 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Cite this