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'Yumari', painted by Uta Uta Tjangala, 1981


'Yumari', painted by Uta Uta Tjangala, 1981

Object information

Physical description

A painting on Belgian linen featuring a central anthropomorphic image surrounded by varying sizes of concentric circles. The background is constructed by means of concentric bands of dotted lines filling the spaces between the circles. There is a straight band across one narrow end, with a wavy line across the opposite end.

Educational significance

This acrylic painting of Yumari combines several Dreamings that pass through the artist's country, including Ngurrapalangu, Tjangala's conception site. The central figure represents Tjuntamurtu (Short Legs). Also depicted are the Dreaming tracks of the Old Man (Yina), the wavy path of Lirru (the King Brown Snake), and the Kanaputa Women seen by Lirru as he passed the salt lake Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay). The painting's title refers to the resting place of Yina, whose body formed the rock hole at Yumari, but it is perhaps more appropriately entitled 'Tjuntamurtu', the Dreaming incarnation of Tjangala himself. The painting is by Uta Uta (Wuta Wuta) Tjangala and measures 3,672 mm x 2,268 mm. This resource includes a line diagram illustrating the symbols used in the painting and a map showing sites of significance.

Uta Uta (Wuta Wuta) Tjangala (c1926-90) was one of the original group of Papunya artists and an inspirational figure in the Papunya art movement, painting continuously until the late 1980s. He came from the Pintupi language group and was conceived at the site of Ngurrapalangu in the Kiwirrkura area of the Gibson Desert. Through this he was connected to the Yina (Old Man) Dreaming story, which runs from Ngurrapalangu and through Yumari. In the late 1970s he, together with other Pintupi leaders, developed a plan for returning to their traditional lands.

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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