Bardayal ‘Lofty’ Nadjamerrek (c. 1926–2009) was a Kunwinjku Aboriginal artist of the Mok clan. He is currently referred to by his skin and clan as “Wamud Namok”, following the Kunwinjku custom of avoiding use of the name of deceased persons.
Bardayal was born in 1926 and is from the Mann River region in Arnhem Land. He grew up in the area and was taught the traditional ways of living in the bush. He did not attend school but developed a deep and respected knowledge of his culture, the land and survival. He married a woman named Mary and together they had eight children; five daughters and three sons, however none of his children have taken up painting. He was considered a senior elder of the Mok clan, his tribe. He was also the custodian of many Dreamtime stories and took part in many ceremonies. Later in life he was unable to attend and participate in as many ceremonies as he would have liked.
Bardayal was a traditional bark painter, meaning he would use tree bark as the medium on which he would paint and would use traditional ochre colours to depict his stories. In his later years he moved to paper due to the more accessible availability of it over collecting and preparing the bark.
Bardayal had a thirty year career as an artist with his first exhibition in 1975 and during that time participated in over thirty exhibitions. Throughout his life he consistently produced artworks and it was only when his eyesight failed him due to Trachoma that he ceased producing artworks. His artworks are held by many prestigious galleries in Australia and he has received many accolades for his works including using one of his artworks on the Australian 40 cent stamp in 1982. In 1993, the Darwin Airport Commission held a large mural of one of Bardayal’s paintings, titled “Ngalyod” on permanent display in the airport foyer.
In 1999, he won the 16th annual National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) in the category of “Best Works on Paper”. The NATSIAA is the premier art award in Australia and Bardayal was a selected entrant on several occasions.
Finally in 2004, he received the Order of Australia, the highest level of recognition to be achieved by an Australian for his contribution to Australia.
Sadly in 2009 Bardayal passed away. He had a state funeral with many in attendance.