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Learning to see in a new way

Warlpiri Drawings: Remembering the Future

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Learning to see in a new way

We learned to see country in a different way.

Neville Japangardi Poulson, 2012

A  photo of a group of boys holding a painting.
Pupils from David Tunley’s senior boys manual arts class, Yuendumu, late 1960s. Photo: David Tunley. Meggitt Collection, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, N0390.131.

Yuendumu school

At the time their parents were making drawings for Mervyn Meggitt, Warlpiri children were coming to terms with a European-style education. By the late 1960s, teacher David Tunley was in charge of the manual arts class for senior boys at the Yuendumu school. He later recalled that when it came to picture-making his students ‘required no teaching’.

However, former pupil Neville Japangardi Poulson remembered learning particular drawing techniques from his teacher and friend. In classroom drawing exercises, children and young adults were taught single-point perspective and how to paint with watercolours. They acquired new ways of picturing themselves, other people and objects in the world, including places and events far beyond Warlpiri country. As Japangardi puts it, ‘We learned to see in a new way’.

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