Yuendumu is a Warlpiri community of around 800 people located about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. It was established by the Native Affairs Branch of the Federal Government in 1946.
The country surrounding Yuendumu includes many places with spiritual power created by ancestral beings in the Jukurrpa (Dreaming), which is sacred to Warlpiri people.
The Yuendumu Doors project
Five Warlpiri male elders at Yuendumu initiated a 'fauve' art of bright colour. This art was first seen in the Yuendumu Doors project of 1983-84.
The elders created a set of 36 kuruwarri (ancestral designs) to teach young Warlpiri their true Jukurrpa (Dreamings). The elders worked with the speed of graffiti artists, scribbling their designs down with untidy abandon using shiny school acrylics on the primary school doors; the modern equivalent of a cave wall.
The doors became an ever-present and indelible symbol of the older men's authority, which ran counter to the messages Warlpiri youths were receiving in the classroom or on television.
Women pick up paint brushes
Painting activity broadened to include women in 1982-83. Anthropologist Françoise Dussart encouraged them to decorate small artefacts and canvas boards and sell them in the community.
A significant step was taken when the men gave women permission to use dots in their acrylic paintings. With this authority to use dots as an embellishment of kuruwarri, the women established them as an integral part of the iconography of works made for sale. However, they chose to fill space with tiny dots in patches of vibrant colour, rather than using the larger often monochrome dots favoured by men.
In 1986, Yuendumu men and women, in equal proportion, combined to form their own cooperative Warlukurlangu Artists. It was the first cooperative to involve both sexes.