Tjun­gunutja- – Melissa Pesa

Art Almanac - - CONTENTS - Melissa Pesa

Over 40 years ago through a union of ar­che­typal de­signs and mod­ern ma­te­ri­als, the se­nior In­dige­nous artists of the re­mote North­ern Ter­ri­tory com­mu­nity of Pa­punya forged a new art form; and ul­ti­mately a new art move­ment that would change the course of Aus­tralian art his­tory. Ge­of­frey Bar­don (1940-2003), a non-in­dige­nous painter, teacher and advocate of Abo­rig­i­nal art, vis­ited the Gov­ern­ment set­tle­ment of Pa­punya in 1971. Here, Bar­ton ob­served the chil­dren draw­ing tra­di­tional de­signs with their fin­gers in the sand and en­cour­aged them to rep­re­sent Abo­rig­i­nal mo­tifs in his art classes. By in­tro­duc­ing acrylic and can­vas to the com­mu­nity, Bar­don grad­u­ally won the con­fi­dence of el­ders who gave per­mis­sion for their an­ces­tral nar­ra­tives to be re­pro­duced for a Western au­di­ence. Fun­da­men­tally, it al­lowed for the con­tentious tran­si­tion from the pri­vate con­text of cer­e­mony to an open mar­ket­place. In 1972, Colin Jack Hinton, the in­au­gu­ral Di­rec­tor of the Mu­seum and Art Gallery of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory (MAGNT), pur­chased over 100 sig­nif­i­cant early ex­am­ples of these Western Desert mas­ter­pieces and through­out the 1970s more ac­qui­si­tions were made, con­tribut­ing to what is now re­garded as some of Aus­tralia’s most sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural, his­tor­i­cal and artis­tic items, and the largest col­lec­tion of Pa­punya paint­ings in the world. ‘Tjun­gunutja:from hav­ing come to­gether’ com­prises early Pa­punya paint­ings cre­ated dur­ing the sem­i­nal pe­riod, 1971-72. Pre­sented by MAGNT, the ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes over 130 paint­ings, rare cul­tural arte­facts, his­tor­i­cal ephemera and pre­vi­ously un­seen pho­to­graphs along­side com­pelling cin­e­matog­ra­phy, of­fer­ing a re­mark­able in­sight into the genesis of the Western Desert art move­ment. In a unique un­der­tak­ing, and an his­toric first, sev­eral In­dige­nous artists have as­sisted Luke Sc­holes, Cu­ra­tor of Abo­rig­i­nal Art MAGNT, with the col­lec­tion, con­sul­ta­tion and pro­duc­tion of the ex­hi­bi­tion. Long Jack Philli­pus Tjaka­marra, one of the found­ing Pa­punya artists, who is also one of the ma­jor con­tribut­ing artists to the ex­hi­bi­tion, will co-cu­rate along­side world-renowned Warlpiri artist Michael Nel­son Tjaka­marra AM, Pin­tupi artists Bobby West Tjupurrula and Joseph Jur­rah Tjapalt­jarri and Lu­ritja elder, Sid An­der­son. To­gether they formed the ti­tle of the ex­hi­bi­tion, ‘Tjun­gunutja’- which points to the amal­ga­ma­tion of Pa­punya’s dif­fer­ent lan­guage

groups for cer­e­mony. More pre­cise, the ti­tle pays homage to the Tin­garri cer­e­monies per­formed in Pa­punya in late 1970 which were at­tended by a large num­ber of peo­ple through­out the Far Western and Cen­tral Deserts – the mo­ment which en­abled this dis­tinc­tive in­ter­cul­tural art move­ment to thrive. Pa­punya paint­ings are fresh and ex­pres­sive, use ra­di­ant colour and pos­sess a char­ac­ter­is­tic style il­lus­trat­ing Tjukur­rpa (Dream­ing) nar­ra­tives linked to land, his­tory and cul­ture. Con­cerned with coloni­sa­tion and the threat of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of their cus­toms, lost to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, these men worked quickly when paint­ing de­pic­tions of their cer­e­mo­nial lives, us­ing any ma­te­ri­als at hand – of­ten scraps of dis­carded build­ing ma­te­ri­als. The works feature a sym­bolic lan­guage of dots, U shapes, con­cen­tric cir­cles, wan­der­ing foot­prints and wildlife tracks. While these im­ages were con­stant, their mean­ings were am­bigu­ous. A con­cen­tric cir­cle, for ex­am­ple, may indi­cate a camp, a wa­ter­hole or cor­ro­boree place. These maps, or traces of pas­sage em­body a non-lin­ear con­cep­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment and the tra­di­tional peo­ples obli­ga­tion to it whether mytho­log­i­cal, par­tic­i­pa­tory or artis­tic. The ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures per­sonal ac­counts by mem­bers of the Western Desert In­dige­nous com­mu­nity, of the Pa­punya art move­ment; in­clud­ing found­ing Pa­punya artists Long Jack Phili­pus Tjaka­marra and Ron­nie Tjampitjinpa, and rel­a­tives of those de­ceased, ex­press­ing their fa­mil­ial, ge­o­graphic and totemic re­la­tions to its fore­bears. These au­dio vis­ual record­ings an­i­mate the con­cep­tual, ab­stract paint­ings of artists such as Anat­jari Tjaka­marra (c.1938-1992), Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula (c.1925-2001), Anat­jari Tjampitjinpa (c.1938-1992), Char­lie Tjaruru Tjun­gur­rayi (c.1921-1999), Uta Uta Tjan­gala (1926-1990), David Corby Tjapalt­jarri (1940-1980), to name a few. Tjun­gunutja recog­nises the cul­tural au­thor­ity of these artists who to­gether pre­served an an­cient cul­ture, now em­bed­ded into a con­tem­po­rary set­ting. Mu­seum and Art Gallery of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory (MAGNT) 1 July, 2017 to 18 Fe­bru­ary, 2018 Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, Pin­tupi/Lu­ritja (c. 1925-2001), Wa­ter Dream­ing, 1971, syn­thetic poly­mer paint on 3-ply wooden board Gift of the De­part­ment of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory 1974 Anat­jari Tjampitjinpa, Ngaat­jat­jar­ra_Pin­tupi, (c.1938–1992), Dream­ing, 1971, syn­thetic poly­mer paint on pa­per board Pur­chased 1972 Courtesy Mu­seum and Art Gallery of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory (MAGNT), Dar­win

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