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'Flying dingoes', painted by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, 1974


'Flying dingoes', painted by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, 1974

Object information

Physical description

An unframed painting on canvas, stretched on a strainer featuring a concentric circle with two tiers of concentric arcs in black and grey above and below it. There are two other protuberances from the concentric circle, and four oval animal tracks[?] on both sides. There is a yellow and a white aura line around the shapes, and white, orange, yellow and green dots on red ochre background.

Educational significance

This acrylic painting has a design superimposed on a map of the escarpment where the dingo became a landform. The central series of motifs reveal the dingo's body, with tracks on either side representing its paw marks. The dingo's long ears, depicted as elongated arcs on either side of the concentric circles, enabled it to fly. The painting by Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri measures 796 mm x 614 mm. This resource includes a line diagram illustrating the symbols used in the painting and a map showing sites of significance.

Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri (c1927-98) was one of several Papunya councillors who became founding members of Papunya Tula Artists in 1971. He came from the Pintupi language group and was born at Marnpi in Pintupi country south-east of present-day Kintore. Relatives brought up Tjapaltjarri and his sister after a revenge party killed their parents. Later they went to Hermannsburg, where Tjapaltjarri attended the mission school before working as a stockman at stations across central Australia.

The Papunya artists explain that their paintings come from the Dreaming. Like the natural features that mark out the journeys of ancestral beings and the ceremonies that re-enact these journeys, the paintings are both part of the Dreaming and part of the physical world. Papunya artist Benny (Pinny) Tjapaltjarri says, 'The Dreaming is our explanation of how the landforms appeared. A Dreaming character would come along and stay at a place and then turn into a hill or stone. Sometimes his tracks would become a soak or perhaps a rock hole ... People were also created by the Dreaming. You see, we are all born from our mothers ... but we still come from the Dreaming ... the Dreaming came first'.

By painting the designs and stories that represent their particular Dreaming places, the artists assert their rights and obligations as Central and Western Desert landowners, entrusted with the ritual re-enactment of the events that occurred at these sites. As part of these ceremonies, elaborate ground paintings are constructed using a symbolic language of U shapes, concentric circles, journey lines and bird and animal tracks. This unique visual language is also used in designs painted on the skin, and is the same language made familiar by the Papunya painters.

The Western Desert art movement, which began at Papunya, is considered to be the genesis of contemporary Aboriginal art. Geoffrey Bardon, a young art teacher who worked at Papunya School from 1971 to 1972, is often credited as the founder of Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd, which was incorporated in 1972. He encouraged the senior men of the various language groups living at Papunya to develop ways of adapting their traditional art to Western materials.

The Australian Government played a crucial role in supporting the painting movement in the years following Bardon's departure from Papunya. In 1973 the Whitlam government formed the Aboriginal Arts Board, with members who were all Indigenous Australians. It fostered Aboriginal arts, literature, theatre, dance, music, painting and craft, and also provided grants for Aboriginal communities to employ managers and to help preserve and sustain Aboriginal culture, arts and crafts. Many large Papunya works were commissioned by the Aboriginal Arts Board during the 1970s as part of its exhibition program in Australia and overseas. This collection was transferred to the National Museum of Australia in 1990.

Object information

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