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Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert

WARNING: This exhibition includes names and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal people. In many Aboriginal communities, the use of a deceased person's name or image is prohibited during the mourning period. It is an Australian custom to warn Aboriginal people that images and names of deceased relatives and friends may be displayed.


Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert was on show at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing
from 10 June until 26 August 2010.

During the 1970s and early 1980s Aboriginal artists from Australia's Central and Western Desert regions created artworks that transformed understandings of Aboriginal art. On canvases, boards and whatever materials they could find, these artists boldly experimented with colour and style in the telling of their sacred Dreaming stories. This exhibition highlighted the National Museum of Australia's extraordinary collection of these paintings.

Introductory text

On this page 

Some of the artists and their works

Possum Men of Yirtjurunya (Yiitjurunya) 1974 thumbnail

Anatjari Tjakamarra
Possum Men of Yirtjurunya 1974
Man Dreaming shield 1972

Tingarri Men and Initiates at Marabindinya (Marrapintinya) 1981 thumbnail

Anatjari Tjampitjinpa
Tingarri Men and Initiates at Marabindinya 1981
Wooden spear 1976

Dreaming at Ilingaringa 1976 thumbnail

Billy Nolan Tjapangarti
Dreaming at Ilingaringa 1976

Budgerigars in the Sandhills 1975 thumbnail

Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri
Budgerigars in the Sandhills 1975

Tingarri Dreaming 1981 thumbnail

Charlie Tjapangarti
Tingarri Dreaming 1981

Wanatjalnga 1974 thumbnail

Charlie Tjaruru Tjungurrayi
Wanatjalnga 1974

Dreaming Story at Warlugulong (Warlukurlangu) 1976 thumbnail

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri
Dreaming Story at Warlugulong 1976
Carved snake 1973

Women Collecting Bush Tucker container 1980 thumbnail

Daisy Leura Nakamarra
Women Collecting Bush Tucker container 1980

Dreaming of Matjadji (Matjatji) 1975 thumbnail

David Corby Tjapaltjarri
Dreaming of Matjadji 1975

Yawalurra (Yawalyurru) 1975 thumbnail

Dinny Nolan Tjampitjinpa
Yawalurra 1975
Lyurulyuru Dreaming shield 1972

Ngunarrmanya 1974 thumbnail

Freddy West Tjakamarra
Ngunarrmanya 1974
Tingarri Men at Ngalkalarra 1975

Tingarri Dreaming at Nariboruka (Naripuruka) 1977 thumbnail

George Tjapaltjarri
Tingarri Dreaming at Nariboruka 1977

The Dancing Women at Nyuminga 1976 thumbnail

George Tjungurrayi
The Dancing Women at Nyuminga 1976

Tingarri Men at Kiritjinya 1975 thumbnail

John Tjakamarra
Tingarri Men at Kiritjinya 1975
Kiritjinya 1975

Tjunyinkya 1977 thumbnail

Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka
Tjunyinkya 1977 (with Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula)

Mala and the Bad Uncles at Tjikarri (I) 1974 thumbnail

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula
Mala and the Bad Uncles at Tjikarri (I and II) 1974

Watunuma (Warturnuma) (Flying Ant Dreaming) 1976 thumbnail

Kaapa Tjampitjinpa
Watunuma 1976
Storm Camps on the Rain Dreaming Trail 1978
Goanna about 1972

Wilkinkarra Men's Camp 1975 thumbnail

Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra
Wilkinkarra Men's Camp 1975
Making Spears 1975

Flying Dingoes 1974 thumbnail

Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri
Flying Dingoes 1974

Water Dreaming boomerang 1975 thumbnail

Mick Wallankarri Tjakamarra
Water Dreaming boomerang 1975
Old Man's Dreaming boomerang 1975

Painted shields thumbnail

Olive Pink
Painted shields collected by Olive Pink in 1936

Chisel 1972 thumbnail

Paddy Tjangala
Chisel 1972, Paddy Tjangala

Willy Wagtail and Hailstone Dreamings 1981 by Pansy Napangarti thumbnail.

Pansy Napangarti
Willy Wagtail and Hailstone Dreamings 1981

Lizard Dreaming Site at Linga-Goora (Lingakura) 1976 thumbnail

Ray Inkamala Tjampitjinpa
Lizard Dreaming Site at Linga-Goora 1976

The Two Women Dreaming 1975 thumbnail

Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi
The Two Women Dreaming 1975
Punyurrpungkunya 1977
Container 1978

Honey Ant Hunt 1975 thumbnail

Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Honey Ant Hunt 1975
Trial by Fire 1975

Tingarri Story 1975 thumbnail

Tim Payungka Tjapangarti
Tingarri Story 1975

Travels of the Mala (Hare Wallaby) 1976 thumbnail

Timmy Jugadai Tjungurrayi
Travels of the Mala 1976

Carpet Snake Dreaming 1976 thumbnail

Toby Brown Tjampitjinpa
Carpet Snake Dreaming 1976

Snake Dreaming at Tjuntina container about 1978 thumbnail

Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri
Snake Dreaming at Tjuntina container about 1978

Dreaming at Kamparrarrpa (Kampurarrpa) 1976 thumbnail

Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula
Dreaming at Kamparrarrpa 1976, Kampurrarrpa 1976
Tjunyinkya 1977 (with Johnny Scobie Tjapanangka)
Two Women Mythology at Putja Rockhole 1977

Yumari 1981 thumbnail

Uta Uta Tjangala
Yumari 1981 and Yumari 1976, Medicine Story 1971
Ngurrapalangu 1974, Red paint tin 1981, Old Man Dreaming shield 1972, Wooden club 1977

Snake Dreaming at Naruingya 1976 thumbnail

Yumpuluru Tjungurrayi
Snake Dreaming at Naruingya 1976

The Dreaming: The sacred stories of sacred ancestors

Many of the paintings in this exhibition tell stories of the activities of sacred ancestral beings. Aboriginal people refer to these collectively as 'the Dreaming'.

In the Dreaming the great ancestral beings created the world through their actions. In creating the world they left their spiritual presence in the features of the land — a presence that is still there today. So, for Aboriginal people, the Dreaming exists in both the past and the present.

The ancestral beings of the Dreaming had many forms. They could be human, animals or plants. They could be giant or small. Their actions made all the hills, plains and rivers. Where they built shelters could become mountains, where they dragged their digging sticks could become river channels. Their footsteps could become lakes.

Their actions and relationships, both good and bad, also provide moral stories, guiding Aboriginal people in correct behaviour.

When Aboriginal people travel their country today they see the hills, trees, animals and plants — everything — as the living embodiment of the sacred ancestral beings of the Dreaming.

The Dreaming: The sacred stories of sacred ancestors

Collection history

Many of the works in this exhibition were collected by the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council during the 1970s. The Aboriginal Arts Board was created in 1973, 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.

Some of the Papunya paintings bought by the Aboriginal Arts Board were lent or given to Australian embassies around the world. Others were donated to public museums and galleries in Australia and overseas. These gifts helped to raise the profile of Aboriginal art in the commercial art market.

The Aboriginal Arts Board also purchased paintings for display in travelling exhibitions, which toured Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1973 and 1981. In the 1980s the Board wound up its exhibition program and, in 1990, the historic collection of Papunya paintings was transferred to the National Museum of Australia.

Collection history

Papunya map

Papunya lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, in the far southwest corner of Australia's Northern Territory. The settlement is 240 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs. This map shows sites of significance in the area.

Map of Australia indicating the location of Papunya plus a detailed section that shows sites of significance in the area.
Papunya map

 

 

Acknowledgements

This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with Vivien Johnson. The National Museum of Australia gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Philip Batty, Bob Edwards, John Kean, Vincent Megaw, Fred Myers, Tim Johnson, Film Australia and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd.

A travelling exhibition developed and presented by the National Museum of Australia.

Acknowledgements

Related links

Supporters

National Art Museum of China. Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program. Imagine Australia - Year of Australian Culture in China.