Anmatyerr people from Central Australia
In Central Australia, 1928 is remembered as the year of the Coniston Massacre when approximately 110 Anmatyerr, Warlpiri and Kaitetye people were slaughtered on Coniston Station, a day’s ride north of Laramba where Tim Leura and Clifford Possum Leura were born. Constable William Murray and his gang of murderous officers on horseback shattered any illusion that the people of the region could continue to live independently in their own country.
Less than a decade before, Anmatyerr country was finally engulfed by the pastoral frontier with the establishment of Napperby Station. In the aftermath of the ‘the killing times’, the presence of a paternalistic but protective station owner offered several Anmatyerr families a reprieve from the bloodbath of preceding years. In this new reality, those who could adapt and exploit cross-cultural opportunities thrived, however, there were others who struggled to cling on to what was left of their world.
The Anmatyerr artists, the most fluent of the Papunya residents in Aboriginal English, initially created images that were provocative exemplars of men’s customary ritual. Their brilliantly figurative, symmetrical and audacious celebrations of the theatre of performance, superimposed with delicate precision on plain backgrounds, seem to have been influenced by Kaapa’s example. Later this direct visual correspondence mutates into composite sensations and metaphors of nature, as seen in Tim Leura's and Clifford Possum’s works, that suggest dappled intricacies of light and shade, botanical and topographical variations, and the dynamics of fire, smoke and the brooding melancholy of darkness.