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.

Freddy West Tjakamarra (Pintupi c. 1940–1995)

Freddy West Tjakamarra was a tall, powerful, imposing figure – more than 6 feet tall… He was a 'do-er,' always making implements – spears, boomerangs, shields, mirru (spear throwers) – never at rest. He was fearless, and he emanated this power. Novelty, of a sort, access to new relationships and knowledge motivated him more than the intimate performances of ritual and dance. (Fred Myers, 2011)

Freddy West was born in the Pollock Hills north of present day Kiwirrkura, and acknowledged Wala Wala rockhole as the major site in his country. In 1962, Government Welfare Branch patrol officer, Jeremy Long first made contact with Freddy West and his family in the area of Dovers Hills. The following year, he began to walk with his family to Papunya and encountered Long at Wili rockhole on the way. At Papunya, Freddy West developed a reputation as a brilliant tracker of assistance to the police and became one of the founding artists in 1971.

An occasional painter, Freddy West created a number of precise and highly decorated depictions of men's ceremonies with related objects, which often refer to places in his country. Later Freddy produced optical Tingarri compositions of multiple concentric circles and travelling paths.

During the 1970s Freddy West was instrumental in instigating the Pintupi's move to establish outstations deep in country near his birthplace. In 1983 he played a vital role in shaping the newly founded Kiwirrkura community as a distinctive Pintupi base from which he and his countrymen and women could again travel to important sites in their homelands.

Freddy West Tjakamarra
Pintupi c.1940-1995
Photo © John Corker


  • EXHI015612
    Freddy West Tjakamarra
    Pintupi c.1940-95
    Men’s ceremony (Wati Kutjarra) 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    45.5 x 31.5 cm
    Private collection, Sydney
    Photo: Jenni Carter
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI013388
    Freddy West Tjakamarra
    Pintupi c.1940-95
    Man’s corroboree story 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    60.0 x 30.0 cm
    Private collection
    Photo: John Spiller
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists

More info