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'Tingarri Story', painted by Tim Payungka Tjapangarti, 1981


'Tingarri Story', painted by Tim Payungka Tjapangarti, 1981

Object information

Physical description

An unframed painting on canvas. Depicts numerous sets of concentric circles of varying sizes, linked with multiple lines. Circles and lines black with yellow dots. Background is red-brown with lines and patches of dots in pink, yellow, black and white.

Educational significance

This acrylic painting represents a large group of Tingarri Men gathered for ceremonies during the Dreaming. A ritual area was prepared by clearing the ground of plants and raking it smooth, then hardening the surface with a mixture of blood and water. Meat was then presented to the Elders - a reciprocal gift from the young men for the teaching of the law. The ceremonial area is indicated by the large set of concentric circles at the centre of the painting. The lines that connect the large and small circles symbolise ceremonial objects employed in the related rites. The painting by Tim Payungka Tjapangarti measures 1,900 mm x 1,700 mm. This resource includes a map showing sites of significance.

Tim Payungka Tjapangarti (c1935-2000) was part of the original group of painters at Papunya and used his language skills to help Bardon with Pintupi translation. He came from the Pintupi language group and was born at the claypan site of Parayirpilynga, near Lake Mackay. In 1958 he brought his family on foot to Haasts Bluff with Uta Uta (Wuta Wuta) Tjangala, his father-in-law. Tjapangarti had a great love of ceremony and song, and used his command of the Warlpiri language to encourage sharing of ritual knowledge.

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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