Kenny Brown was involved in the early stages of Jilamara’s development in the late 1980s. At the time, he produced carvings and bark paintings at the art centre. He stopped painting to work at the Milikapiti Farm and Community Social Club, before returning to the art centre in December 2001 to continue with his artwork.
As a teenager, Kenny lived at Paru on Melville Island with the wulimawi (old people). At the time, the camp at Paru was well known as a group of Tiwi cultural leaders and artists who had strong knowledge of the old ways and the old Tiwi language – they produced many carvings that sold through the mission before art centres were established on the islands. “Marjory Wonaeamirri grew me up” (the artist’s grandmother). At approximately 17 years of age Kenny left Paru but the influence of the elders on his life continues to this day. He acknowledges their influence in his art, and states that he “learnt designs from the old people”. From one generation to the next generation the senior Tiwi people were giving designs to Kenny relating to identity, skin (or tribe), strong imagery which holds powerful connections to past generations and provides a symbolic continuous link throughout Tiwi history. “The old people never talked about design, they showed me design”.
Kenny’s career spans many years and he is recognised as being an artist with great skill, and has attracted the attention of institutions, commercial galleries and private collectors around Australia.