NMA collection record

'Tjunyinkya' by Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, 1977

Description

This acrylic painting is of Tjunyinkya, which is the name of a cave and rock hole site where Tingarri Men gathered during the Dreaming. Their activities are said to be visible in the form of standing rocks on the hills that surround the cave. The key participants are shown by the U shapes that adjoin the concentric circles (the cave). The background dots represent kirti (spinifex) and tali (sandhills). The painting is by Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula and measures 2,730 mm x 3,460 mm. This resource includes a line diagram illustrating the symbols used in the painting and photographs of the artists.

Educational value

Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka (c1938-2000) was one of the original Papunya Tula Artist shareholders, but he didn't paint until 1975. He is from the Pintupi language group and was born in the Kintore Range in the Northern Territory. He grew up in the bush before going to Lajamanu (Hooker Creek). After the Pintupi moved back to their traditional lands in 1981, he was deeply involved in the success of the new community at Warlungurru (Kintore). He resumed painting in this period, often enlisting his wife, Narpula Scobie Napurrula, sister of Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, to paint the backgrounds.

Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula (c1943-2001) was one of the youngest of the original Papunya Tula Artist shareholders. His name first appears in the company's books as a painter in 1973. He came from the Pintupi language group and was born east of Haasts Bluff, where his family was camping after coming in from their traditional country around the Kintore Range. He worked as a stockman at Haasts Bluff cattle station and later as a labourer at Papunya, building houses for the new settlement.

The Papunya artists explain that their paintings come from the Dreaming. Like the natural features that mark out the journeys of ancestral beings and the ceremonies that re-enact these journeys, the paintings are both part of the Dreaming and part of the physical world. Papunya artist Benny (Pinny) Tjapaltjarri says, 'The Dreaming is our explanation of how the landforms appeared. A Dreaming character would come along and stay at a place and then turn into a hill or stone. Sometimes his tracks would become a soak or perhaps a rock hole ... People were also created by the Dreaming. You see, we are all born from our mothers ... but we still come from the Dreaming ... the Dreaming came first'.

By painting the designs and stories that represent their particular Dreaming places, the artists assert their rights and obligations as Central and Western Desert landowners, entrusted with the ritual re-enactment of the events that occurred at these sites. As part of these ceremonies, elaborate ground paintings are constructed using a symbolic language of U shapes, concentric circles, journey lines and bird and animal tracks. This unique visual language is also used in designs painted on the skin, and is the same language made familiar by the Papunya painters.

The Western Desert art movement, which began at Papunya, is considered to be the genesis of contemporary Aboriginal art. Geoffrey Bardon, a young art teacher who worked at Papunya School from 1971 to 1972, is often credited as the founder of Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd, which was incorporated in 1972. He encouraged the senior men of the various language groups living at Papunya to develop ways of adapting their traditional art to Western materials.

The Australian Government played a crucial role in supporting the painting movement in the years following Bardon's departure from Papunya. In 1973 the Whitlam government formed the Aboriginal Arts Board, with members who were all Indigenous Australians. It fostered Aboriginal arts, literature, theatre, dance, music, painting and craft, and also provided grants for Aboriginal communities to employ managers and to help preserve and sustain Aboriginal culture, arts and crafts. Many large Papunya works were commissioned by the Aboriginal Arts Board during the 1970s as part of its exhibition program in Australia and overseas. This collection was transferred to the National Museum of Australia in 1990.

All works are copyright the artists or their estates and are licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency.