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.


  • EXHI013388
    Freddy West Tjakamarra
    Pintupi c.1940-95
    Man’s corroboree story 1972
    synthetic polymer paint on composition board
    60.0 x 30.0 cm
    Private collection
    Photo: John Spiller
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists
  • EXHI015193
    Kaapa Tjampitjinpa
    Anmatyerr/Warlpiri c.1925-89
    Men’s Ceremony for the Kangaroo, Gulgardi 1971
    watercolour on plywood
    61.0 x 137.0 cm
    Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
    Winner of the Caltex Art Award, 1971. Acquired by the Central Australian Art Society from the 1971 Caltex Art Award. Donated to the people of Alice Springs through the Alice Springs Town Council
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
  • EXHI015593

    The title identifies this painting within the corpus of works associated with the Old Man's Dreaming. This ancestral being, yina who travelled from Kampurarrnga in the Henty Hills, through Ngurrapalangu and Yumari and on westwards – traversing almost precisely the plains area through which Pintupi people moved back and forth in pre-contact times. The ‘Old Man’ is known particularly for having had intercourse with a tabooed category of relative, his ‘mother-in-law’ at Yumari, ‘mother-in-law’ place, for which transgression he suffered an attack of ants on his penis. There are, of course, many distinctive sites on the Old Man’s path. This painting is connected to the site area of Yumari, but not so much to the rockhole itself. The figure in the upper left corner is likely the Old Man himself. The meandering black line below him connected to a concentric circle in the lower left corner is the mark left by him dragging his penis towards the mother-in-law’s vagina, a feature of the rock outcropping. In the centre of the painting, the six oblong features probably represent the ‘standing rocks’ that stand to the south of the Yumari rockhole – a formation called Tilirrangarranya (light the fire and stand) where the Old Man stood by the fire and decorated himself the morning after. This feature was often represented in the overt form of ritual objects in early paintings.

    Uta Uta Tjangala
    Pintupi c.1926-90
    Old Man’s Dreaming 1983
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    242.0 x 362.0 cm
    Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
    South Australian Government Grant, 1984 (844P11)
    © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd


Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri 1972
Pintupi c.1926-98
Photo © Allan Scott
Nosepeg Tjupurrula 1972
Pintupi c.1915-90
Photo © Allan Scott
Timmy Payungka Tjapangati 1972
Pintupi c.1940-2000
Photo © Allan Scott
Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, July 1972
Anmatyerr/Warlpiri c.1925-89
Photo © Allan Scott
Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi 1972
Pintupi c.1920-87
Photo © Allan Scott
Charlie Wartuma Tjungurrayi 1973
Pintupi c.1921-99
Photo © Allan Scott


  • EXHI015734
    Pintupi active (1950s)
    Spear thrower (1950s)
    Mulga (Acacia sp.), earth pigments, spinifex resin, sinew, wood
    76.0 x 9.0 x 5.0 cm
    The Donald Thomson Collection, University of Melbourne
    On loan to Museum Victoria, Melbourne (DT4562)
    © Museum Victoria 2011 / Photographer Benjamin Healley
  • EXHI015742
    Warumungu active (early 1900s)
    Group of decorated knives early 1900s
    quartzite (flaked), glass, wood, spinifex resin, earth pigments, bark, bush string
    Museum Victoria, Melbourne
    Purchased from James Field, 1907 (X13764) (X13697) (X13570) Purchased from G. F. Hill, 1928 (X36746)
    © Museum Victoria 2011 / Photographer Benjamin Healley
  • EXHI015838
    Arrernte active 1900s
    Necklace 1902
    fur string, bandicoot tail tips
    29.0 x 22.0 x 5.0 cm
    Museum Victoria, Melbourne
    Gift from Baldwin Spencer, 1902 (X9622)
    © Museum Victoria 2011 / Photographer Benjamin Healley