Installation view of Betty Muffler’s work <em>Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country)</em> on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Betty Muffler

Photo: Rhett Hammerton

Betty Muffler
Pitjantjatjara/Yankunyjatjara born 1944

Ground Level
NGV International
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Betty Muffler’s Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country), 2022, is painted from above, with the canvas placed on the ground. The epic scale of the work provides an expansive representation of Country from the perspective of the eagle, including significant sites such as waterholes and waterways. The work is informed by the artist’s status as a ngangkari (traditional healer). Embracing a subtle monochromatic palette, the movement and energy in her painting comes from the activation of the eagle spirit. In her own words, ‘Through my paintings, you can see my Ngangkari work: watching over people and also looking after Country. My Country. This place is very important – we all need to look after each other and respect our home.’

A highly respected senior woman, Betty Muffler works at Iwantja Arts, her practice spanning painting, drawing, printmaking and tjanpi (native grass) weaving. Muffler is a ngangkari (traditional healer), having learned this practice from her aunties, handed down through her father’s side. Alongside a rigorous art practice, Muffler works extensively with NPY Women’s Council and medical practitioners to support Anangu to good health and through times of crisis.

Born near Watarru, Muffler grew up at the Ernabella Mission following the displacement and deaths of family members in the aftermath of the British nuclear testing at Maralinga and Emu Field. Witnessing the devastation of Country and surviving this experience motivates Muffler’s recurring depiction of healing sites and the intensity of her connection to these places in her paintings titled Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country).

The NGV warmly thanks Barbara Hay and the Hay Family, Rosemary and Nora Merralls, Chris Thomas AM and Cheryl Thomas, D’Lan Davidson and Rachal Jacobs, Margaret Lodge and Terry Murphy KC, and donors to the 2022 NGV Indigenous Art Dinner for their support.