Sacred Places | Marrapinti

Untitled by Nanyuma Napangati. 107 cm x 91 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas.

Marrapinti is a rockhole site west of the Pollock Hills in Western Australia. It is a place of cultural significance for Aboriginal tribes in this area, and particularly for women, as an important site for women's ceremonies.

Indigenous Australians believe that the nose bone ancestor lives in the ground at Marrapinti and while women camped at this site they would fashion nose bone jewellery to honour their ancestor - a practice that continues to this day. 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 an Aboriginal boy's 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 their sacred site. These nose bones were originally worn by both men and woman, today they are usually only worn by the older generation on ceremonial occasions.

In the past, Marrapinti was an important site as the source of vital bush food. Dreamtime stories about the site tell of female ancestors stopping at this waterhole to collect water and harvest desert raisins that grow nearby. The presence of the berries and drinking water are likely the main reasons that the site was first considered sacred.

Desert raisins, kampurarrpa, are from the Solanum family of plants, like tomatoes and potatoes. They grow after the rains and fruit for a couple of months each year. The fruits are rich in minerals and are high in vitamin C, essential for preserving health. Traditionally, Aboriginal women would sun-dry raisins harvested in the autumn and winter months, as in this form this precious food can be stored for several years.

Due to Marrapinti's importance for both survival and in lore, it's frequently the subject of the work of Aboriginal artists from surrounding areas. Aboriginal Art UK is lucky to have two such artists represented in our collection.

Nanyuma Napangati

Nanyuma is a Pintupi senior law woman. She was born around 1940 south of the remote community Kiwirrkurra in the Gibson Desert 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.

Untitled by Nanyuma Napangati. 91 cm x 91 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas.

Nanyuma began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1996 and she paints designs associated with women's ceremonies at Marrapinti, where she was born. Nanyuma began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1996 and three years later she was involved in the Kiwirrkurra Women's Painting project, which created work to be auctioned to raise money for the Renal Unit at Kintore.

Untitled by Nanyuma Napangati. 46 cm x 38 cm. Acrylic on linen canvas.

In 2000, Nanyuma was one of a dozen women from the Kiwirrkurra community who travelled to Sydney to dance in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Lorna Ward Napanangka

Lorna Ward Napanangka was born at Papunya around 1961, she is the daughter of famous artist Timmy Payangka Tjapangati who was one of the first generation artists and founders of the Desert Art movement.

Untitled by ​Lorna Ward Napanangka, 61 cm x 55 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas

She began painting in 1996, the same year as Nanyuma, but at a different community in Kintore. In 1999 Lorna's standing rose as she too contributed to the collaborative "Kiwirrkurra Women's Painting" alongside Nanyuma. In 2002 she was a finalist in the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art award cementing her place as a significant artist.

Untitled by ​Lorna Ward Napanangka, 61 cm x 55 cm. Acrylic on linen Canvas

Nanyuma's work is on display at our latest exhibition and if you visit we would be happy to show you Lorna Ward's work too!

'Sacred Spaces' extended until 17th October 2020. Wednesday - Saturday, 10am - 4pm. Hallidays Mill Gallery, London rd, Chalford, GL6 8NR.

To find out more please visit: or contact for prices and further details.


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© Nadia Phillips 2020