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Kuru Ala by Wingu Tingima


Kuru Ala by Wingu Tingima

Object information


This painting is by senior Pitjantjatjara artist Wingu Tingima. It depicts a significant site on the Seven Sisters songline. The work was made at Tjungu Palya (an Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centre in Nyapari, South Australia) in 2007. This songline extends south-eastwards from a site near Parnngurr rock hole to Kalypa (Well 23) on the Canning Stock Route, and then north-east to Pangkapini, after which it leaves Martu county. As the women continue their journey from Parnngurr, Yurla is always nearby, lurking at waterholes where the sisters hope to rest, spying on them as they dance, wash, sleep and gather food, awaiting his chance to catch one of them.

The Seven Sisters story is embedded in a land alive with songlines and is an archetypal parable that has universal application --- it operates like a morality play that considers good and evil and the human condition. The story thus has contemporary relevance to land management and environmental issues.

The Western Desert version of this story tells of a cheeky man, Wati Nyiru, who chases the sisters all over the country. He is a clever man with transformative powers, a shape shifter and a generative source of life in the animal, plant and human world.

"When the songline reaches the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, the tone darkens and the actions of Wati Nyiru become more sinister. His obsession with the eldest sister is the major theme, and the paintings acquired relating to the Seven Sisters focus on several key events ? the capture of the eldest sister, the cooking and eating of kuniya, (the carpet snake, which is a manifestation of the shape-shifter), and the transformation of the sisters into stars.
On the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, people are connected to sites through their kinship to the Ancestral characters who inhabit the narrative. The rituals of dance and song ? inma ? enact the universal meanings of the Tjukurrpa. The Seven Sisters drama unfolds along two songlines in this section. As you journey along the Kuru Ala songline to the south and Wanarn to the north. the paintings function as portals to place."
(Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, NMA Press, 2017, p119)

At Kuru Ala, Wati Nyiru turned himself into a quandong tree in an attempt to trick the sisters. When the sisters tasted the fruit they knew it wasn't quite right. They realised it was Wati Nyiru and continued to run away from him.

"Wingu Tingima believed that to reveal too much in a painting could have terrible consequences. She would not paint Wati Nyiru, although he lurks just beyond the borders of the painting. The women are represented as either sleeping or dancing, the arcs of parallel lines indicating the tracks made by the dancing feet of minyma tjuta (many women)." (Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, 2017 - Exhibition text)

Physical description

A synthetic polymer painting on canvas depicting a significant site on the Seven Sisters songline. The base of the canvas is black, overlayed with circular and arched shapes surrounded by light and dark tones of purple, orange, green, and pink. Each colour is tightly dotted into irregular shapes resembling the imprint of a sponge. One-half of the canvas comprises eight arched shapes painted olive green with a series of white dots joined together creating a thin linear effect. The shapes are arranged around two concentric ovals; one with black, white and purple lines in the middle, circled by a brighter green, a thin purple line, a white circle, and a thick mustard yellow and orange oval outlined with a white line of dots. The other half of the canvas comprises similar composition with eight arched shapes this time painted brighter green with white dots joined together creating a thin linear effect. There is also a long bar on the edge of the canvas with mustard and white lines. There are four more circular shapes within the group of eight arches. Each concentric circle has a white centre, surrounded with black, mustard and green rings. Five similar figures are painted down the centre, with another two concentric circles in one of the corners of the canvas. On one edge of the canvas, black handwritten text reads 'TPWT07739 Wingu Tingima Nyapari 2007 Tjungu Palya'. On the reverse of the canvas, there are patches of paint and masking tape.

Object information

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