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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.

Aboriginal art tells their stories with signs and symbols used by the indigenous people for thousands of years. It is a record of their sacred Dreamtime - the creationist myth for the Aboriginal people - knowledge of plants and animals, as well as maps of their lands.

In the 1960s, the government at Papunya controversially resettled five desert tribes. They were the Pintupi, Loritja, Warlpiri, Aranda and Anmatjira. There was much rivalry, but the common thread of painting helped bring the tribes together.

A Teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, recognised the importance their art and encouraged the senior men to record their work permanently - first on boards, then on canvas. Before then, most indigenous art was drawn in the sand, painted on the body or inscribed on barks and weapons.

The new works were sent to Alice Springs, the capital of the outback, where demand for them grew. Others joined the Papunya artists from Balgo hills, Turkey Creek, Yuendumu, Utopia and Lajamanu and together they formed the first truly indigenous art movement in Australia since settlement.

Below is a small selection of the works that will be on show and the fascinating stories behind them

Below: The last staging of Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Art at Linlithgow Burgh Halls, January 2019


Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginal Art

5th February - 1st March 2020

Riverhouse Arts Centre
Manor Road
Walton on Thames
KT12 2PF

10am to 4pm daily

Tjayanka Wood, Seven Sisters Dreaming

Tjayanka Woods (b. circa 1935)


'Seven Sisters Dreaming'

152 cm x 122 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Tjayanka was born around 1935 near Kalaya Pirti in South Australia. She is a senior Pitjantjatjara artist, and one of the four surviving pioneer women of the painting movement now known as the NPY and APY lands art movement. The people from this area have always maintained a nomadic existence, and as a result, Tjayanka is a highly knowledgeable bush woman.


In 2001, the artists in Wingellina, including Tjayanka, established Irrunytju Arts. This is a remote aboriginal community at the edge of the Gibson Desert with a population of around 150. The harsh environment inspires extraordinary art, which reflects the strong relationship between the artists, their country and their culture. Tjayanka has since moved to the Blackstone community, to the arts centre at Papulankutja, where she acts as inspiration to the younger women in the community.

In this painting Tjayanka refers to this popular Dreamtime story of seven ladies being chased through the desert by one man. The ladies travel around and eventually they rise up into the sky to form Peliades, a group of seven stars to be seen in the southern skies.



Tiger Palpatja (1920 - 2012)

'Wanampi Tjukurpa. The Mythical Rainbow Snake Creation Story' 

122 cm x 198 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

This painting by Tiger depicts a creation story featuring the rainbow snake and the creation of the bloodwood trees in Piltatic where he was born. This is the story that inspired the painting:

'Two Snake brothers and their wives lived near Piltati, every day the women went out hunting and brought home Kuka (meat for cooking) for the men, who didn't do anything except perform ceremonies. The sisters became fed up with the men's laziness so they decided to teach them a lesson - they ate all of the food and left the men to fend for themselves. The brothers became very angry and turned themselves into a Wanampi to frighten and taunt their wives. The sisters tried for days to catch the snake until they were exhausted. On one occasion one of the sisters nearly caught him but was frightened by his huge coils that were being wrapped around her feet, so she threw a sharp stick and pierced his side. The Wanampi left the burrow and chased and swallowed the younger sister and then the injured snake caught, killed and ate the elder sister. The older brother is now said to be a bloodwood tree with a dry limb stick out at one side and the trunk is covered with lumps and excrescenses, and this is said to be the body of one of the women still showing through the skin of the snake.'


Tiger Palpatja Wanampi Tjukurpa. The Mythical Rainbow Snake Creation Story, 2011

Yinarupa Nangala (born 1960)


150cm x 90 cm Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from registered art dealer

Yinarupa Nangala is a Pintupi woman, born to the west of what is now Kiwirrkurra community in Western Australia. She is the daughter of the great Papunya Tula Artists, Anatjari Tjampitjinpa.

These works depict the Ngamurru in Kiwirrkurra , a meeting place for Aboriginal women where ceremonial business is conducted.

The various shapes in her work record important features of the landscape including rock holes, which serve as important water sources, women’s meeting places and abundant food areas. Yinarupa uses a combination of traditional and contemporary symbols providing an aerial view of the Pintupi area.


Yinarupa Nangala, Country 2018
Ngupula Pumani (1948 - 2019) Maku inmaku pakani, The Witchetty Grub Songline, 2011

Ngupulya Pumani (born 1948)

'Maku inmaku pakani, The Witchetty Grub Songline' 

182 cm x 121 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Ngupulya paintings depict 'Maku Tjukurpa', a songline from the Mimili area. She paints this story with rhythmic over-dotting, using a soft palette of restricted colours to create a landscape with layers and flowing lines.

'Maku inmaku pakani, The Witchetty Grub Songline'

The Witchetty grub songline is a significant song from the Mimili community. It tells the story of how Aboriginal women went to the waterhole on top of the rocks at Antara to clean out the rock hole and wait for the rains to come. When they arrived and the waterhole was full they would tap on the water's surface with a stick, then sing and dance to celebrate.

This signalled the time to search for the Witchetty grub. The women would dig under the Witchetty bush to find this prized bush tucker. The grub is the larva of a moth and is found in the root system of the bush. Traditionally they were sought out as a high-protein food, apparently, the taste is between chicken and prawn when barbecued!


Taylor Cooper, Malara

Taylor Cooper (b. circa 1940)




102 cm x 120 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from arts centre

Malara is Taylor’s first large painting, and represents the place of the Serpent Dreaming, located far west near Watarru, in the far north west of South Australia.

Taylor Cooper was born around 1940 at Malara, a waterhole east of Pipalyatjara. It is an important Rainbow Serpent Dreaming site. His parents country is near Coffin Hill, a sacred men's site. He is an important senior tribesman and a recognised custodian of traditional aboriginal law and culture.

He began painting at Kaltjiti Arts Centre in 2009 and his work reflects his deep tribal knowledge. Kaltjiti Arts  provides resources and opportunities for artists like Taylor, who are mainly painters that draw their inspiration from the surrounding arid landscape.



Evelyn Pultara, Bush Plum 2004

Evelyn Pultara (b. circa 1940)


'Bush Plum' 


Five panels, 196 x 46cm each. Acrylic on linen canvas

Provenance: Certificate of authenticity from art dealer

'Bush Plum' is an extraordinary work by Evelyn Pultara. Painted across five panels, each stands almost 2 metres tall! Evelyn comes from Woodgreen Station in Utopia, Central Australia, she was born around 1940 and is part of the Anmatyerre language group.


Today, she exclusively paints her plant totem, the Bush Yam. However, when she began painting in 1997, she depicted traditional designs such as Awelye (women's ceremonial body paint designs) and bush tucker, such as the bush plum.


 The Bush Plum Dreaming Story is told through tribes in the Western and Central deserts, from Warlpiri country to the Utopia lands. This is how the story is told in the Utopia region:


"In the Dreamtime, winds blew the bush plum seed to the ancestral lands. The first bush plum grew, bore fruit and dropped more seeds, which were then picked up by the wind spreading the plum across their country."


Aboriginal people retell the Dreaming story to pay homage to the spirit of the bush plum, ensuring that this important desert shrub fruits year after year. Traditionally, it is celebrated in tribal ceremonies through song and dance, but today, elders like Evelyn also pay tribute by painting its story. ‘Bush Plum’ represents the plant’s fruit, leaves and flowers, but also recalls the designs painted on the body during ceremony inspired by the Dreaming.


This 2-3 metre tall shrub is not a true plum, but is, in fact, a relative of the sandalwood tree. It fruits in the summer after the rains, producing small olive-sized fruits that are green when young, turning from pink, red to purple and finally almost black when ripe. It has distinctive blue-green leaves and produces a creamy yellow/white flowers.


The bush plum has been an important food source for generations of Aboriginal hunter-gatherers. They can be eaten ripe, or dried and eaten throughout the year. It was once found widely throughout the outback, but numbers in the wild are in decline due to its popularity with more recently introduced grazing animals.


However, since the discovery that this bush tucker contains large amounts of Vitamin C and antioxidants, communities in Kimberley who grow the plum are experiencing something of a gold rush. The Gudumul community supplies large quantities of the plum for the manufacture of anti-ageing supplements, as with many bush foods, modern science is only now discovering benefits that have sustained Aboriginal people for thousands of years!




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