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.

Nosepeg Tjupurrula (Pintupi c.1915–1990)

Nosepeg had an encyclopaedic knowledge of all desert Aboriginal lore and law, and from the 1940s to the 1980s became, I believe, the greatest traveller on ‘Law business’ and the most important ritual leader the Australian Western Desert people have ever known. His countrymen considered him so perfect in his knowledge of the finest details of ceremonial protocol that it was commented that he was as one with the Dreaming. (R. G. (Dick) Kimber, 2011)

Born in Winanpa (Southern Pintupi) territory south of Kaakurutintjinya (Lake Macdonald), where he grew up, Nosepeg Tjupurrula developed an intimate knowledge of his country before he moved to Haasts Bluff. Here he worked as a guide and interpreter on all Welfare Branch patrols into Pintupi country between 1957 and 1964. His brilliant acting ability was also recognised by film-makers and he became one of the most popular Aboriginal actors of the mid twentieth century.

Nosepeg was a leading identity at Papunya when the art movement started. He was one of the founding artists but his role in the community always took precedence over his painting. He was acknowledged as a ritual leader by Pitjantjatjara, Pintupi, Winanpa, Matjatjara and Warlpiri peoples and there was not a traditional artefact that he could not make.

An occasional painter, his works are imbued with his deep understanding of Pintupi law. His principal sites included Payarrnganya, Pirrymalnganya and places southwest of the Kintore Ranges.

Nosepeg Tjupurrula 1972
Pintupi c.1915-90
Photo © Allan Scott


  • EXHI015185
    Nosepeg Tjupurrula
    Pintupi c.1915-90
    Three ceremonial poles 1971
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    56.2 x 70.0 cm
    National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
    Purchased, 1993
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015495
    Nosepeg Tjupurrula
    Pintupi c.1915-90
    Emu Dreaming 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    46.0 x 46.0 cm
    Australian Museum, Sydney
    Purchased, 1983
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd

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