Roy McIvor, a senior Guugu Yimithirr man has been painting for over fifty years. His paintings, underpinned by the traditional art of his ancestors, explore the contemporary social landscape of community life.

In the community you’re never short of a problem. I wanted to give that trouble away, and wondered how can I live through this? Life was like captivity and I thought about how can we change it – how can we think differently about our life and take control of it? We had no freedom to live our own life and I wanted to liberate my people through my art. People need to know that Indigenous people can bring about changes in their life themselves.

My work often recalls the emotional feelings I experienced when I first saw the rock art that is all around my Binthi homelands, so my work is like a dance between this traditional imagery and the modern reality, punctuated by a graffiti-like urban motif.

Art is precious in life. I kept up with my culture’s traditional style because it reminds me of my old people. It reminds me of their life, they were wonderful artists too. I thought about that, and I thought about my country at McIvor River. I look at the countryside and remember how beautiful it is, and how my old people were up on the mountains, painting beautifully on the rock.

Today Roy McIvor lives at Hope Vale, 50km north of Cooktown. He is the ex-Chairman of the Hope Vale Arts and Cultural Centre and has been a stalwart figure in the promotion of Indigenous art and culture at Hope Vale. Until recently he was a long-term Board member of Cairns based UMI Arts (Sheridan St) and they have named one of their galleries the McIvor Gallery in Roy’s honour.