Roma Winmar, Noongar artist, was born in Gnowangerup, a small town in the southwest of Western Australia, in 1944. She attended school in Narrogin and Williams, which are to the northwest of Gnowangerup, and completed high school in Midlands, on the outskirts of Perth.

Winmar began her art practice in her youth: the Junior Red Cross presented two of her paintings to Sir Charles Gairdner upon his retirement as Governor of Western Australia in 1963, and one of her paintings also became part of the collection of William McMahon while he was Prime Minister. Other honours Winmar received include the 'Daisy Bates Award’ for civic achievement, in 1962. In 1970 she received first prize in the Aboriginal Art section at the Festival of Perth for a carved emu egg she created. In later years a collection of fifteen of her emu eggs was placed on permanent display in New Mexico.
Winmar’s first exhibition as a professional artist took place in 1974, when she showed oil landscapes alongside the work of King Wally Umbulgarri and artists from Papunya in an exhibition at Newman House in Perth. Other exhibitions followed, as Alta Winmar writes:
“Roma exhibited works on tour at Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin in 1976, displaying her watercolour landscapes and demonstrating her egg-carving skills.” (1991, pg 34).
Winmar’s best-known works are her watercolour landscapes. In 1990 a series of her watercolour landscapes were included in a women’s exhibition at the Birukmarri Gallery in Fremantle, and in 1992 she participated in 'Nyungar Landscapes’, which was shown at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia, before being toured nationally by Art on the Move. The work South-West Landscape (c. 1980s), which was one of several of Winmar’s works acquired by the Mary Macha collection in the 1980s, depicts a southwest landscape at sunset in deep pink tones. This work was included in the exhibition 'Koorah Coolingah (Children Long Ago)’, staged at the Western Australian Museum and Katanning Arts Centre during the 2006 Perth International Arts Festival. In an interview published in the exhibition catalogue, Winmar cites the renowned Mt Barker artist Bella Kelly as a stylistic influence and source of inspiration:
“ particular person that I really admired was a lady from down at Mt Barker, from the southwest and her name was Bella Kelly. As it turned out later on all her children painted in the same style or in a similar style as to what she did so I would say there was the Bella Kelly school of art and I sort of admired her as a woman too, because she sort of set a precedent you know. There was this lady that was a mother and everything else and she actually painted and the way that she painted was true to her country.” (Pushman & Walley 2006, pg 71).
When she had the opportunity to visit Alice Springs, Winmar was also very moved by the works of Albert Namatjira that she saw, responding to the way his works are both realistic portrayals of what was before him and deeply emotive expressions of his love for his country (pg 73).
Other exhibitions have included 'Aboriginal Artists of the South-West: Past and Present’ (2000), at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery in Perth, and a solo show in Narrogin (1987) that was a tribute to her mother.
Winmar signs her works with the name 'Yibiyung’, which was her mother’s Noongar name (she was also known as Lily Penny, nee Wynne). In 2008 the play Yibiyung , written by Winmar’s daughter Dallas Winmar, dramatised Yibiyung’s life story, drawing in part on the extensive files on her accumulated by the Native Welfare Department in the 1920s. Yibiyung was taken from her family as a child and first placed in the Carrolup Native Settlement, and then the Moore River Settlement. In later years she worked as a domestic for white families. A significant portion of the play in its early stages is presented in the Noongar language, and Roma Winmar was employed to provide language and culture consultation for the play. In 2009 she was working as a Noongar language teacher at the Moorditj Noongar Community College in Middle Swan, Western Australia.
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Fisher, Laura
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