Papunya Tula Aboriginal Art Movement


In 1960, under an assimilation policy, a settlement at Papunya, 250 kilometres west of Alice Springs, was established by the Australian Government as a hub for desert communities. A decade later it was to be home to more than 1,000 people, mainly Pintupi but including Luritja, Warlpiri, Arrente and Anmatyerre tribes. Where traditionally, Desert people had painted their bodies, decorated their shields and made ceremonial designs in the sands to maintain their cultural ways, now they were now disconnected form the source of their culture.

In 1971, with the encouragement of a Geoffrey Bardon, a European art teacher at Papunya, contemporary Aboriginal art, known as the Papunya Tula Art Movement, began. Starting with a mural on the external wall of the school yard, the art movement at Papunya evolved both in style, technique and imagery.

The following year the Papunya Tula Coop was established, wholly owned and directed by the Pintupi artists to promote individual artists, provide economic development to their communities and to assist in the maintenance of their cultural heritage.

By the 1980’s the Pintupi had began returning to their ancestral lands, first to outstations around Kintore and later even further west to Kiwirrkurra. The elder Uta Uta Tjangala was one of the first to relocate to Kintore, 280 kms west of Papunya and his work reflects a longing for the land, the escape from exile and the ceremonial sites at the centre of his Dreaming.

The re establishment of these settlements encouraged other Pintupi people living more remotely to reunite their clans at Kintore and in 1984, Pintupi artist Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri along with his brothers Walala Tjapaltjarri, Thomas Tjapaltjarri and several other relatives walked out of the desert and made contact for the first time with European society.

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