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.

Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi (Pintupi c. 1920–1987)

I think of Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi as a quietly friendly, good family man, anxious to help, and as a singing, painting, dancing and hunting man. When first I met him in 1974 he was tracking a wounded emu, his quick eyes seeing the occasional spot of blood, and both hands held out from his sides in the form of an emu’s foot as he showed others its route. (R. G. (Dick) Kimber, 2011)

Shorty Lungkata was born at Walukirritjinya south of Kaakurutintjinya (Lake Macdonald), also the place where his father died. He married and came to Haasts Bluff around 1948 and moved to Papunya in the late 1950s. He was regarded within the Pintupi community at Papunya as one of the leading senior men, well known for his hunting and dancing skills and an authority on ritual matters.

Shorty was one of the last Pintupi men to join the original painting group at Papunya. His early paintings flow with gesture and a dancer’s vitality of movement and are imbued with a strong sense of place. He spoke almost no English and when he needed to convey his ideas to Geoffrey Bardon, would have his fellow countrymen translate.

Shorty moved to Walungurru in the early 1980s to be closer to his birth country in the Gibson Desert. He painted only a few works during the 1980s, but his legacy endures in the work of his daughter Wintjiya Morgan Napaltjarri and his stepdaughter Linda Syddick, whom he taught to paint.

Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi 1972
Pintupi c.1920-87
Photo © Allan Scott


  • Ad100922
    Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi
    Pintupi c.1920–87
    Untitled 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    67.7 x 46.0 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased through the Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of ICI Australia Ltd, Fellow, 1988
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • Ad100940
    Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi
    Pintupi c.1920–87
    Men in a Bushfire 1972
    enamel paint on composition board
    64.2 x 50.1 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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