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.

Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (Pintupi c. 1926–1998)

For those of us who knew Mick Namarari as an artist, the dramatic events that shaped his youth are hard to reconcile with the warm but reserved person we encountered in his later years. While Namarari came into manhood during a period of violence expressed on both sides of the pastoral frontier, his artistic output is characterised by the celebration of his ancestral home while capturing the dynamism of natural forces associated with its creation. (John Kean, 2011)

Mick Namarari was born at Marnpi, a Kangaroo Dreaming site south-east of Walungurru, where as a small boy he witnessed the killing of his father by a revenge party and the subsequent loss of his father’s mother. After a period of mourning, the family travelled east, reaching Putati, a ration depot established by the Lutheran pastor F. W. Albrecht and Arrernte evangelist Titus. From here Titus led them into Mt Liebig where they were caught up in the scientific experiments of the Adelaide University research party led by Norman Tindale. Later they travelled to Hermannsburg where Namarari attended the mission school before working briefly as a stockman and moving to Haasts Bluff.

Namarari settled in Papunya during the late 1950s and was serving on the Papunya Council when Geoffrey Bardon arrived in 1971. He was one of the most committed and accomplished of the Papunya artists, on small or monumental scale. His Dreamings included Moon, Kangaroo, Dingo, Water, Wild Bandicoot, Wind and Marsupial Mouse. His principal sites were Marnpi, Tjunginpa, Tjangimanta and the Dingo Dreaming site of Nyunmanu.

Namarari stayed at Papunya until the mid 1980s when he moved to Walungurru and worked to establish an outstation at Nyunmanu. In 1991 he won the 8th National Aboriginal Art Award and his first solo exhibition was held at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne. During this period, he developed a pared down style, which plays on subtle variations of tonality, texture, straightness of line, or density of dotting, to create a shimmering surface. In 1994 Namarari tied for first place in the Caltex Art Award and was the recipient of the Australia Council’s prestigious Red Ochre Award.

Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri 1972
Pintupi c.1926-98
Photo © Allan Scott


  • EXHI015400

    Namarari depicts the Bandicoot Dreaming at the site of Marakutju, a hill north of the Walungurru community. Here the ancestral bandicoot made a shelter by scraping at the ground, pulling all the spinifex grass into a nest with his claws and forming a type of roof with the grass. He then stretched out on his back with his limbs splayed. The work is emblematic of place and also embodies the movements of the bandicoot in constructing the shelter. It is identical in scale and subject to the artist’s major prize-winning entry in the 1991 National Aboriginal Art Award. The work reveals Namarari’s use of increasingly reduced visual motifs, which enable him to reach a conceptual distillation of elements that intersect when he thinks of particular places in his country.

    Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri
    Pintupi c.1926-98
    Bandicoot Dreaming in the Marakutju area 1994
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    182.0 x 153.0 cm
    Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, Melbourne
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015532
    Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri
    Pintupi c.1926-98
    Big Cave Dreaming with ceremonial object 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    91.1 x 63.8 cm
    John and Barbara Wilkerson, New York, USA
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015387
    Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri
    Pintupi c.1926-98
    Family bush tucker Dreaming c.1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    50.0 x 50.9 cm
    Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd

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