Aboriginal Artist Victor Rolston
Hailing from the extremely remote stone country of Maningrida, in Western Arnhem Land, Victor Rostron is a multi-lingual artist, singer, songwriter, vocalist, musician and knowledge-holder for his people.
Growing up in Maningrida, Victor suffered the separation from his mother when he was but a small child, when she left him to go walk-about, never to return. To this day Victor says he never knew why she left and this one event had a big impact on his life. However if you have ever read the autobiographies of past elders Bill Neidje (from the Gagudju clan), you will realise that sometimes these types of separations, although appearing circumstantial, were sometimes planned and discussed by parents, when they wished to toughen up their children. It may have also been planned to teach them to observe their cultural practices more, hunt and generally survive on their own, as we see in parenting with animals nature. The goal being that ultimately, their child would be strong enough to survive out there on their own and in Victor’s case look after country and the sacred sites where he resided.
He has subsequently worked as a ranger for decades, doing just that. Sometimes children would be left with a strong cultural guardian, apprenticed with senior men or women, as in Victor’s case he was left with his grandfather who was a magic or ‘clever’ man, a traditional healer - the type who use Shamanic practices and bush medicine to heal others, prophesize, someone who understands ancient ceremonial practices, and can also enact cultural punishment when people break cultural law, using magic like ‘pointing the bone’.
Victor’s grandfather was also a descendant from a long-line of traditional indigenous artists who painted on bark, and who were makers of other traditional ceremonial items, like didgeridoos (an instrument called the mago in Western Arnhem land, and regarded as a sacred and magical one) and spears.
Victor was raised in a rich, deep and mystical tradition, and his profound awareness of his ancient culture and its symbolism, even now, ekes out into every area of his creativity. Victor’s traditional painting work incorporates the use of the four ochres traditional style from the ‘Stone Country’, that known as ‘X-ray art’ and a cross-hatching style (known as rarrk), using traditional bark-treatment and painting techniques and paint brushes made of a type of grass called ‘munyilk’.
Bark art is the rare and unique method of cutting bark from trees and soaking, stretching and drying the surface to paint on. This technique is a dying art with less young indigenous men in Western Arnhem land and Kakadu National Park being interested in or being trained to do it and therefore not taking up this ancient tradition. This is what makes Victor’s work and others of his ilk using these techniques, such valued national treasures. As a highly respected senior Culture Man, Victor reaches across cultural barriers and holds keys to important knowledge that bridges the gap between ancient and contemporary Australia.
Victor’s vision carries within it the power of the ages. An insightful man who is is well-versed in his traditional culture, a practising artist, musician (guitarist, didge and clap-stick player), vocalist, lyricist, a mentor and teacher to the young and passionate collaborator with others both indigenous and non-indigenous.
Victor is a powerful creative force and one of Australia’s important voices.
With many strings to his bow, Victor is the manager of the “Wildfire Manwurrk” band and with his son Osiris Johnston who sings lead vocals and plays lead guitar sings in critically endangered Indigenous Rambarrngna, Dalabon, and Kun languages.