ABORIGINAL

COUNTRY

For our new exhibition, we've paired Aboriginal artworks with stunning photographs from around Australia to show how the textures, colours and shapes of the outback influence the work of the artists.

The Aboriginal tribes of Australia are the longest surviving continuous culture in the world and the oldest population of humans living outside of Africa. They came to Australia around 60,000 years ago.

For Aboriginal people, the term ‘Country’ does not refer to ownership of land in a western sense, but rather the ownership of the sacred stories of the land that have been passed down through the generations.

In many of the works, the artists imagine looking down on the land from above, mapping their land, using symbols to tell their Dreamtime stories and record their knowledge. Passing this knowledge through the generations has helped Aboriginal people navigate, survive and thrive in the outback for millennia. 

 
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Kudditji Kngwarreye (1938 -2017)

 

‘My country (Emu Dreaming)’

 

124.5 x 81 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

 

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from art dealer, purchased directly from a dealer working with the artist.

Kudditiji was an Anmatyerre elder and custodian of many important dreaming stories. He is one of the last of the older generation of Aboriginal masters and the brother of one of the most famous, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

 

He began painting his dreaming stories in the 1980’s, using the typical dotting style and hieroglyths, but in the 1990’s his work became more abstract. Kudditjii’s ‘Country’ paintings depict an abstracted aerial view of the landscape and the songlines of the ‘Emu dreaming’ story.

 

In the Dreamtime, Emu’s were sky birds and never touched the earth. Then, on one occasion a bird swooped close and saw that other native companions were living on the land and they were singing and dancing.

 

She asked the people whether they could live on earth, but the companion told her that she couldn’t because her huge wings would get in the way – they would have to be cut off if she wanted to stay! She agreed, but when she was wingless, the companion spread her own wings and flew off, laughing with her tribe. The nearby kookaburra also laughed at the trick, and when he remembers, still laughs to this day.

 
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Mathew West Tjapurrula (born c. 1979)

 

Untitled

 

91x46 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

 

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Matthew is from a family of artists. He is the son of Freddy West Tjakamarra, a former shareholder of Papunya Tula Artists and his mother is Payu Napaltjarri, a well known artist.

 

Matthew began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 2001 and resides with his wife and family at Kiwirrkura Community in Western Australia.

 

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Eubena Nampitjin (1921 – 2013)

 

‘Ngunguntarra’

120 cm x 80 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

This work by Eubena Nampitjin is a depiction of a place called Ngunguntarra, near the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia. It depicts two waterholes, or yinta as they are called in the Kukatja language. These waterholes are a permanent source of water in Eubena’s country and this site is surrounded by Tali (sand hills) that fan out around them.

The Canning Stock Route is a 1,850 kilometre long cattle track that runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley to Wiluna in the mid-west of Western Australia. It is the longest historic stock route in the world.

 

The route was created in the early 1900s, but the land had been occupied by the Aboriginal tribes for an estimated 30,000 years. A number of Aboriginal people worked successfully with the cattlemen, and droves relied on the skill of these Aboriginal stockmen and women. However, as with many colonial developments in Australia, it had a negative impact on some of the 15 Aboriginal tribes whose land the track crossed, and this led to deadly clashes.

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Willy Tjungurrayi (1932 – 2018)

 

'Sand Hills'

120cm x 153 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Willy Tjungurrayi's work is some of the most sought after of the Western Desert painters. As a senior Pintupi man, he was entitled by his ancestry to paint the sacred Tingari cycle.

The wavy, shimmering lines in ‘Sand hills’ are thought to represent the fierce hailstorm that killed the ancestral Tingari men in the Dreamtime story.

He began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1976. His brothers are the respected artists George 'Hairbrush' Tjungurrayi, and the late Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi. Yala Yala was a founding member of the Papunya art movement.

 

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Nanyuma Napangati (Born circa 1944)

 

Untitled

91 cm x 91 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Nanyuma is a Pintupi senior law woman. She paints designs associated with women's ceremony at Marrapinti, south of the remote community Kiwirrkurra in the Gibson Desert where she was born.

She was born around 1940 and lived a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle until her mid-twenties. Welfare patrols brought her and her family to Papunya in 1964 where they settled. Nanyuma began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1996.

Marrapinti is a place of cultural significance for the Aboriginal people. Dreamtime stories tell that female ancestors stopped at this site to collect desert raisins, a vital bush food, which would grow after the rains and fruit for a couple of months each year.

 

 

Indigenous Australians believe that the nose bone ancestor lives in the ground at this site and while camped at Marrapinti the women would fashion nose bones jewellery. These nose bones are known as Marrapinti after the location, and they are a part of one of the most important Aboriginal ceremonial rites.

The 'nose bone ceremony' marks a boys transition to manhood. The ritual begins with the painting of sacred symbols on the body, followed by piercing the septum. The nose is pierced with the bone of an animal or bird associated with a tribe's Dreaming and the ancestral creator of the sacred site. These nose bones were originally used by both men and woman, today they are usually only worn by the older generation on ceremonial occasions.

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Lily Lion Kngwarreye (Born 1964)

 

‘Country’

122 x 91.5 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from art dealer, purchased directly from a dealer working with the artist.

In her painting ‘Country’ Lily is inspired by five remarkable Dreamtime stories: Rainbow Dreaming, Sweet Honey Greville, Alpeyt (A variety of flowers), Honey ant dreaming and Ilyarn-ilyarnty (Acacia tree and witchetty grub)

 

Lily Lion was born in Utopia in central Australia in 1964. Like many other women from Utopia became involved in art in the 1970’s and 1980’s through various community workshop and events. Her artistic career began as part of the famous Utopia Batik, whose work toured to international acclaim. This led to her taking up painting in the late 1980’s when Lily began using canvas and acrylic paints. Her paintings are held in several collections as well as being involved in various exhibitions including an entrant in the 8th and 10th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibitions in 1991 and 1993.

 

 

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Lisa Napurrula (Born circa 1943)

 

Untitled

48 x 36 cm, Acrylic on linen Canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Lisa Napurrula is a Pintupi artist who was born in 1943. The lines in this work represent the tali (sandhills) and puli (rocky outcrops) of the rockhole site of Marrapinti.

 

 

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Constance Robinja (1966 – 2012)

 

Untitled

85 cm x 100 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Constance was one of the most respected artists who worked with Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, based near Alice Springs. This art centre has transformed the lives of the artists and their community and plays a major role in the cultural heritage of the region.

​Constance had strong Western Arrernte connections and the heritage of this landscape, in addition to her contemporary experiences, influenced her work.

 

 

ABORIGINAL ART UK

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© Nadia Phillips 2019