The Papunya Tula Art Movement began in 1971 when Geoffrey Bardon, a school teacher, encouraged some of the men to paint a blank school wall. The murals sparked off tremendous interest in the community and soon many men started painting. In 1972 the artists successfully established their own company.
The company is entirely owned and directed by traditional Aboriginal people from the Western Desert, predominantly of the Luritja/Pintupi language groups. It has 49 shareholders and now represents around 120 artists. The company derives its name from Papunya, a settlement 240km north-west of Alice Springs.
Papunya settlement was established as an administrative centre by the government for the Aboriginal people who had moved in from the desert. Since then many Pintupi and Luritja people have moved back to their homelands and continue their strong ceremonial tie to the Land.
The Papunya Tula painting style derives directly from the artists’ knowledge of traditional body and sand painting associated with ceremony. To portray these dreamtime creation stories for the public, has required the removal of sacred symbols and the careful monitoring of ancestral designs.
The work of the Papunya Tula artists is highly regarded. The high standard of the work and its unmistakable and powerful style has resulted in the Papunya Tula artists being represented in most public galleries, major museums, institutions and many large private collections within Australia as well as overseas.
Willy Tjungurrayi is a Papunya Tula Artist.