from having come together
1 July 2017 - 18 February 2018
In 1971 at the Government settlement of Papunya in the Northern Territory, a group of Aboriginal men began to paint depictions of their ceremonial lives onto scraps of discarded building materials. These paintings marked the beginnings of the Western Desert art movement and are now regarded as some of Australia’s most treasured cultural, historical and artistic items.
The following year, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory made a visionary purchase of over 100 of the most significant early examples. Throughout the 1970s dozens more historic acquisitions were added to what is now the largest and most important collection of early Papunya paintings in the world.
This startling exhibition will finally reveal a collection that has been shrouded in mystery, controversy and intrigue for over 40 years. Comprising of over 130 paintings, rare cultural artefacts and historical ephemera, Tjunguṉutja provides an extraordinary insight into the genesis of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement.
Curators: Long Jack Philipus Tjakamarra, Michael Nelson Jagamarra AM, Sid Anderson, Bobby West Tjupurrula, Joseph Jurrah Tjapaltjarri & Luke Scholes, Curator of Aboriginal Art MAGNT.
Photo: Merinda Campbell
Anatjari TjakamarraAnatjari Tjakamarra
Kangaroo Rat Dreaming 1972
Collection of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Johnny Warangkula TjupurrulaJohnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Water Dreaming 1971
synthetic polymer paint on 3-ply wooden board
Gift of the Department of the Northern Territory 1974
Anatjari TjampitjinpaAnatjari Tjampitjinpa
synthetic polymer paint on paper board
Charlie Tjaruru TjungurrayiCharlie Tjaruru Tjungurrayi
Medicine Story or Man Dreaming
Collection of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Uta Uta TjangalaUta Uta Tjangala
Pintupi c. 1926–1990
Medicine Story 1971
synthetic polymer paint on chipboard
"A timely and nuanced reassessment of the Papunya story and one in which Indigenous voices, for the first time, play a prominent role and revise earlier mythmaking by zealous participants and by latter-day anthropologists. The pioneering efforts of Geoffrey Bardon are now placed within the broader context of the earlier Yuendumu Men’s Museum mural and the role of other Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants in these developments. This pioneering publication, based on new archival material, and the accompanying exhibition fundamentally rewrite the history of a critical episode in 20th century Australian art."
Emeritus Professor Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA,
Australian National University
Featuring full-colour images of exhibited paintings and objects, rare unpublished photographs and a series of scholarly essays, this publication is the ultimate compendium to the exhibition.
Left to right: Sid Anderson, Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, Sammy Butcher, Bobby West Tjupurrula and Michael Nelson Jagamarra at Papunya, October 2015. Image: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra
Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra was born in his mother’s country at Kalipinypa, the sacred Rain Dreaming site, north-east of where the Walungurru (Kintore) community was established. His father, Franky Tjupurrula, a Warlpiri man, came from Parikurlangu, north of Kalipinypa. In Papunya, Long Jack was a yardman at the school when a young schoolteacher, Geoffrey Bardon, arrived in 1971. Long Jack and Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, also a school yardman, assisted in the painting of a series of murals at the school, which included the now famous Honey Ant mural. Tjakamarra then became one of the founding artists of the Papunya art movement and four of his works were included in the first consignment of paintings brought into Alice Springs for sale in September 1971. Tjakamarra has painted regularly since the 1970s and won the Northern Territory Golden Jubilee Art Award in 1983 and the Alice Springs Art Award in 1984. A committed Christian, Tjakamarra was ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1984.
Long Jack has been represented in many major exhibitions of Aboriginal art including: Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1989; L’Été Australien à Montpellier, Musée Fabre, France, 1990; Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, 1993; Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1994; Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2007–08, and Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2011–12, and Musée du quai Branly, Paris, 2012–13. In 2012, Tjakamarra was engaged as a consultant by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to determine the suitability of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection of early Papunya paintings for public display.
Michael Nelson Jagamarra AM
Michael Nelson Jagamarra was born at Pikilyi (Vaughan Springs), west of Yuendumu. His early years were spent living nomadically in the country surrounding Mount Doreen, prior to eventually settling in the small community of Hassts Bluff where he lived with Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra and his family. Jagamarra later moved to Yuendumu where he went to school. After he completed his schooling Jagamarra worked in a variety of jobs in the Top End, before eventually returning to live in Papunya. The year after he began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1983, Jagamarra won the National Aboriginal Art Award and in 1986 he was invited to exhibit at the Biennale of Sydney. His Possum and Wallaby Dreaming 1985 was chosen as the basis for the forecourt mosaic for the new Parliament House in Canberra. In 1993, Jagamarra was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his service to art and was awarded an Australia Council Visual Arts Board Artist’s Fellowship. He is represented in many private collections around the world as well as the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia. In 2012, Jagamarra was engaged as a consultant by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to determine the suitability of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection of early Papunya Paintings for public display.
Sid Anderson was born in Haasts Bluff in 1953. When he was a young boy he moved to Papunya where he attended school, after which he worked for the Papunya Council as a yardman. Anderson’s grandfather, Old Bert Tjakamarra, was one of the senior men in Papunya at the time the painting movement began and was instrumental in the early negotiations between Geoffrey Bardon and the painters regarding cultural protocols. Anderson has been twice elected to the MacDonnell Regional Council where he held the position of Council President. He was also a founding member of Papunya Tjupi Arts when it was first established in Papunya in 2007. Anderson is a committed father, grandfather and husband and lives at Five Mile Outstation east of Papunya. In 2012, Anderson was engaged as a consultant by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to determine the suitability of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection of early Papunya paintings for public display.
Bobby West Tjupurrula
Born in the bush at Tjammu Tjammu, east of where the Kiwirrkura community now stands, Bobby West Tjupurrula is the son of founding Papunya artist Freddy West Tjakamarra. Tjupurrula and his extended family group migrated from their ancestral homeland to Papunya in August 1963 after encountering a Northern Territory Welfare Branch patrol. Since the passing of his father in 1994, Tjupurrula assumed the mantle as a strong leader and advocate for the Kiwirrkura community and its people. He served as Chairman of the Kiwirrkura Council for over a decade during the 1990s and has been a long-term Board member and Chairperson of Papunya Tula Artists. Tjupurrula started painting regularly in the early 1990s and has since participated in solo and group exhibitions in Australia and overseas. In August 2000, Tjupurrula participated in the formation of a large ceremonial ground painting to mark the opening of Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He also attended the Icons of the Desert exhibition at the Herbert F Johnson Museum at Cornell University, NY, USA, in 2009. Bobby Tjupurrula has acted as a consultant on many exhibitions and projects, most notably for the National Gallery of Victoria’s Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art, which opened in Melbourne in 2011 prior to travelling to the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in 2012. In 2012, Tjupurrula was engaged as a consultant by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to determine the suitability of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) collection of early Papunya paintings for public display.
Joseph Jurrah Tjapaltjarri
Joseph Jurrah Tjapaltjarri was born in the bush in 1952, not far from where the Kiwirrkura community now stands. At the age of about 10, Tjapaltjarri and his extended family group came into contact with a Northern Territory Welfare Branch patrol and were brought into the government settlement of Papunya. Following the death of his father in 1966, he was raised by his classificatory fathers, Yumpululu and Willy Tjungurrayi. Upon moving to Walungurru (Kintore) in the early 1980s, Tjapaltjarri was called upon to assist another of his classificatory fathers, Charlie Wartuma Tjungurrayi, with his paintings. Within two years of becoming an artist in his own right, in 1988 Tjapaltjarri was invited to present a solo exhibition at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne. His representations of the travels of his Tingarri ancestors surrounding the country of his birth were further recognised with his inclusion in a group exhibition at John Weber Gallery, New York, in 1988. The following decade, in 1997, he accompanied Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula to Paris to create a sand painting for the exhibition Peintres Aborigènes d’Australie at the Establissement Public du Parc de la Grande Halle de la Villette. In the late 1990s his work made a significant departure from his austere geometric compositions and began to illustrate ngalyapi, the plant material used to produce bark sandals. Such foot-coverings were worn in the peak of summer to soften the task of traversing the searing hot sands of the desert interior. The long sinuous lines that appear in this series of paintings depict both the ngalyapi and the desert landscape from where it is collected. He continues to live and work in Kiwirrkura where he is recognised as an affable gentleman, equal parts boyish joker and solemn recluse.
Luke Scholes is Curator of Aboriginal Art at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Between 2003 and 2007 he worked as a travelling field officer and later as Assistant Manager at Papunya Tula Artists. In 2008 he worked for Martumili Artists in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
During 2010–11 he was Project Officer, Indigenous Art, at the National Gallery of Victoria. Luke has contributed to many books, journals and magazines including: Beyond Sacred: Australian Aboriginal Art, the Collection of Colin and Elizabeth Laverty; Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art; No Boundaries: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Abstraction from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection and Art & Australia.