Tjukurrtjanu TjukurrtjanuTjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art

NGV NGVNGV: 150 years Museum VictoriaMuseum Victoria Papanya Tula ArtistsPapanya Tula Artists

  • An NGV Touring Exhibition
  • 30 September 2011 – 12 February 2012
  • The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia,
  • Federation Square, Melbourne
  • 9 October 2012 – 20 January 2013
  • Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art examines a watershed moment in the history of art when a painting practice emerged at Papunya in Central Australia. Tjukurrtjanu gives prominence to 200 of the first paintings produced at Papunya between 1971 and 1972 and also establishes the vital connection between the works of art and their sources in ephemeral designs made for use in ceremony.

A collaboration between the NGV and Museum Victoria.
In partnership with Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd.

This website contains the names, images and works of Indigenous people who have passed away, which may cause distress to some Indigenous people.

Indigenous people from Central Australia and the Western Desert are advised that this exhibition contains culturally sensitive works that may be considered harmful or inappropriate for viewing by women or uninitiated members of their communities. Care has been taken to respect cultural protocols and, following a comprehensive consultation process, these works will be exhibited separately for the duration of the exhibition and will not be illustrated in the exhibition catalogue or displayed on this website.

Please note that some records contain terms and annotations that reflect the period in which the item was recorded, and may be considered inappropriate today in some circumstances.

Anatjari Tjakamarra (Ngaatjatjarra/Pintupi c. 1938–1992)

The year was 1977, and Anatjari was at the height of his success as an artist. He was a serious, observant man of friendly silences, and on the rare occasions that he spoke it was with a gentle, quiet voice. (R. G. (Dick) Kimber, 2011)

Anatjari Tjakamarra was born in southern Pintupi country near the rockhole site of Kurlkurta in Western Australia, where he lived with his family until they started to walk towards settlements in the east in 1966. On their journey, they encountered a Weapons Research Establishment patrol that transported them to Papunya where they were re-united with other members of their extended family.

One of the later arrivals at Papunya from country to the west, Anatjari had just come into the full powers of ritual maturity. He began painting in 1971 and immediately distinguished himself among the other artists as a highly skilled painter who produced elaborate and carefully planned depictions of ceremonial objects and designs. During the 1970s he made a successful transition to large canvas and painted particularly strongly in the late 1980s, when moving between homeland centres of Kiwirrkura and Tjukurla that were closer to his birthplace, Kurlkurta.

In 1988 one of Anatjari's paintings was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from a group exhibition at John Weber Gallery in New York, where his first solo exhibition was held the following year.

Anatjari Tjakamarra 1972
Ngaatjatjarra/Pintupi c.1930-92
Photo © Allan Scott


  • Ad100936
    Anatjari Tjakamarra
    Ngaatjatjarra/Pintupi c.1930–92
    Big Pintupi Dreaming ceremony 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    51.5 x 43.3 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of North Broken Hill Ltd, Fellow, 1987
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • EXHI015171
    Anatjari Tjakamarra
    Ngaatjatjarra/Pintupi c.1938-1992
    A cave Dreaming 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    66.2 x 57.0 cm
    State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
    Purchased with funds provided by the BHP Community Trust to the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1996 (1996/0082)
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015742
    Warumungu active (early 1900s)
    Group of decorated knives early 1900s
    quartzite (flaked), glass, wood, spinifex resin, earth pigments, bark, bush string
    Museum Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased from James Field, 1907 (X13764) (X13697) (X13570) Purchased from G. F. Hill, 1928 (X36746)
    © Museum Victoria 2011 / Photographer Benjamin Healley

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