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 Wallangkarri Tjakamarra (Kukatja/Ngalia c. 1905–1996)

Wallangkarri cultivated a unique palette, generally choosing to paint on a black background with semi-transparent dots in a range of soft pinks and earthy greens. He worked slowly, usually for no more than an hour or two at a time and with a lightness of touch, putting emphasis on a mosaic of vegetation within a conceptual map of his country. (John Kean, 2011)

Mick Wallangkarri was born at Watikinpirri, west of the Eagle Dreaming site of Karrinyarra, near Watulpunyu and became a senior custodian of these three significant sites in his country. Wallangkarri worked as a stockman on Glen Helen and Narwietooma Stations east of Papunya, before moving to Papunya where he lived for the rest of his life.

A pensioner at Papunya, who was known as 'Old Mick', Wallangkarri shared with Tom Onion Tjapangati the custodianship of the Honey Ant Dreaming, authorising its representation on the Papunya school walls, a crucial moment in the genesis of the Western Desert art movement. He was an enthusiastic painter, driven to paint by his ritual seniority. He had been painting on the body and the ground, in ritual contexts, for many decades as is reflected in his earliest works composed of graphic designs silhouetted on the dark backgrounds of rough-cut boards. He was the first Papunya Tula artist whose work was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia.

Mick Wallangkarri Tjakamarra 1972
Kukatja/Ngalia c.1905-96
Photo © Allan Scott


  • EXHI015289
    Mick Wallangkarri Tjakamarra
    Kukatja/Ngalia c.1905-96
    Bush tucker story 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    72.0 x 77.0 cm
    Hugo Le Roux Guthrie, Melbourne
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • Ad100933
    Mick Wallangkarri Tjakamarra
    Kukatja/Ngalia c.1905–96
    Old man's Dreaming on death or destiny 1971
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    60.9 x 45.7 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

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