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Ngurrara: The Great Sandy Desert Canvas

Minangu Huey Bent painting the Ngurrara Canvas at Pirnini 1997
Minangu Huey Bent painting the Ngurrara Canvas at Pirnini 1997. Photo: Ngurrara Artists Group.

The Ngurrara: The Great Sandy Desert Canvas exhibition, developed by the South Australian Museum, centred on one of the largest and most spectacular Aboriginal Western Desert paintings: the great Ngurrara Canvas.

The canvas was painted by senior traditional owners of the Great Sandy Desert of northern Western Australia during native title tribunal hearings in 1997.

This imposing painting was exhibited alongside paintings and films made during the painters' recent visits to their ancestral land, juxtaposed with artefacts, crayon drawings and regional maps made by the painters' parental generation during a 1952 anthropological expedition.

Ngurrara: The Great Sandy Desert Canvas was on show at the National Museum of Australia from 5 April to 22 June 2008 in the First Australians Focus Gallery.

The great Ngurrara Canvas

The great Ngurrara Canvas is one of the largest and most spectacular Aboriginal Western Desert paintings. It was painted by senior traditional owners of the Great Sandy Desert of northern Western Australia as an emotionally and politically charged expression of their links to their country, for presentation to the National Native Title Tribunal in 1997.

Image on left: Hitler Pamba and Nada Rawlins completing the Warla section of the Ngurrara Canvas at Pirnini, May 1997. Image on right: Nyirlpirr Spider Snell explaining the Ngurrara Canvas, 2005.
Above left: Hitler Pamba and Nada Rawlins completing the Warla section of the Ngurrara Canvas at Pirnini, May 1997. Photo: K. Dayman. Above right: Nyirlpirr Spider Snell explaining the Ngurrara Canvas, 2005. Photo: Ngurrara Artists Group.
The Ngurrara 1997 acrylic on canvas.
The Ngurrara Canvas. Painted by Ngurrara artists and claimants, coordinated by Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency, May 1997. 10 metres x 8 metres. Photo: Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency.
The Ngurrara Canvas at the Ngurrara native title determination proceedings at Pirnini, November 2007.
The Ngurrara Canvas at the Ngurrara native title determination proceedings at Pirnini, November 2007. Photo: Ngurrara Artists Group.

Supported by Visions of Australia, an Australian Government Program supporting touring exhibitions by providing funding assistance for the development and touring of cultural material across Australia.


Government of South Australia, South Australian Museum, Australian Government Visions of Australia