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.

Walter Tjampitjinpa (Pintupi c. 1912–1981)

I was much taken with Walter's paintings of Kalipinypa, a Rain Dreaming site, each representing the camp of the boss of water and lightning, the sense of running water and the native well ... He sometimes painted other places, including a nearby Possum Men Dreaming rockhole and ... the Two Women Dreaming soakage site of Kampurarrnga (Mount Russell). Walter had lived at these sites and far more widely in his youth, throughout country east, west and south of Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay), north as far as the Highland Rocks and the Alec Ross Range, and as far south-west as the great sacred men's site, Yawulyurrunya. (R. G. (Dick) Kimber, 2011)

Walter Tjampitjinpa was born at Dovers Hills, Western Australia, and first encountered Europeans in 1923 when he joined a group of around thirty men who were visiting Hermannsburg. He was recorded as living at Mt Liebig in 1932, having come in from the bush in 1929–30 with the first mission trip beyond the Kintore Ranges. From the 1940s he lived with his family in Haasts Bluff before moving to Papunya.

A pensioner, known as 'Old Walter', he was one of the elders responsible for authorising the designs used in the mural on the Papunya school walls. Walter was one of the original Papunya artists, renowned for his constantly varied paintings of Kalipinya, the Water Dreaming site of which he was the senior custodian. By the time he started painting in 1971, Walter said he considered himself too old to visit his homelands but he continued to represent the country he knew so well as a child from memory, until his eyesight failed him towards the end of his life.

Walter Tjampitjinpa
Pintupi c.1912-81
Photo © Allan Scott


  • Ad101013
    Walter Tjampitjinpa
    Pintupi c.1912–81
    Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa 1971
    enamel paint on composition board
    61.6 x 73.2 cm
    National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Alcoa of Australia Limited, Governor, 1993
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • EXHI015167
    Walter Tjampitjinpa
    Pintupi c.1912-81
    Water Dreaming 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    78.0 x 31.0 cm
    The Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, Melbourne
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd

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