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Questions of country

Warlpiri Drawings: Remembering the Future

Warning: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Questions of country

Red trees at Hooker Creek – Larry was fascinated by the trees on the creek.
Mervyn Meggitt, 1965

He was looking at those trees but he was thinking about his own country, Yarripirlangu.
Tess Napaljarri Ross, 2011

A black and white photo of Larry Jungarrayi.
Larry Jungarrayi at Hooker Creek, 1953–54. Photo: Mervyn Meggitt. Meggitt Collection, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, N0390.35.

Yarripirlangu to Hooker Creek

Larry Jungarrayi was aged in his late 30s when he met Mervyn Meggitt at Hooker Creek. An initiated and ceremonially active man, Jungarrayi was also employed as the settlement’s baker. After Warlpiri were granted land rights in the late 1980s, Jungarrayi returned to his birthplace and ancestral home at Yarripirlangu in Ngalia (southern Warlpiri) country, where he and his brothers established an outstation. In the same period Jungarrayi, who by now had acquired the European surname Spencer, was involved in establishing acrylic painting at Yuendumu. He was a founding member of Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Association.

Amelia Napaljarri Brown at Yarripirlangu.
Amelia Napaljarri Brown at Yarripirlangu, 2011. Photo: Hannah Quinliven.
A colour photograph of tall gum trees beside a creek.
Trees at Hooker Creek, November 2011. Photo: Melinda Hinkson.

Trees at Hooker Creek

Among Jungarrayi’s drawings is a series Meggitt identified as ‘Trees at Hooker Creek’. Warlpiri people today are bewildered by this attribution. Was Jungarrayi painting Hooker Creek – his new home, but country to which he had no entitlement in Warlpiri reckoning? Or was he homesick and looking at the trees at Hooker Creek while thinking about his own country, Yarripirlangu, hundreds of kilometres to the south-west?

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