Mens Ceremonyby Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri
This artwork was painted in 1982. The iconography depicted represents the ceremonial places associated with the area of Mount Denison, situated to the north west of Papunya in Central Australia. The custodians of this Dreaming are the Tjapaltjarri and Tjungurrayi skin groups
In men's ceremony, the elders prepare the ceremonial ground, supervise the painting of the dancers with the appropriate designs and accompany the performance by singing ritual songs, to the accompaniment of boomerangs or clapping sticks. Many of the men's Dreaming paintings have also been sung while they were being painted.
Aboriginal Art & Paintings
Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri is an iconic figure in Aboriginal Art. His date of birth is set in approximately 1927 at Ilpitirri near Mount Denision in Central Australia. As a young child he witnessed the Coniston massacre in 1928 in which his family were slaughtered. He survived as his mother had hidden him in some nearby bushes; the only other survivors were the men who were out hunting at the time, this included Billy’s father. Billy was adopted and raised by Cilfford Possum Tjapaltjarri’s mother, his aunty, and he grew up on Napperby Station.
As a young man he worked as a stockman and this is where his nickname “Stockman” came from. He, like many Aboriginal people at the time, was moved to Papunya as part of a government re-settlement program and began working as a cook and a yards man at the Papunya School. In about 1955 he married Uta Uta Tjangala’s (another famous Aboriginal artist) neice. He was also known for his mechanical skills fixing cars. He, like, Cilfford Possum Tjapaltjarri, also began his artistic career by carving wooden animals which were sold at the arts and crafts marketplace.
In 1971 the Papunya School arts teacher requested a mural be painted at the school, given Billy’s involvement and activities in the community at the time, he along with several other men, under the guidance of leaders, created the “Honey Ant Dreaming” mural. It was the first Central Desert art to be exhibited publically and shot Billy into the spotlight of the Aboriginal Art Movement of the time.
Throughout the 1970’s Billy was influential in bringing traditional iconography of Aboriginal people into the public forum and during this period he held many important and key positions. In the 1970’s he was a Central Australian delegate to the NAC, an Aboriginal Arts Board Members from 1975-1979 and one of the first chairman for Papunya Tula Artists, holding the position from 1976 - 1977.
He had travelled both nationally and internationally for exhibitions, a key exhibition was held in 1988 in New York, USA, where he and Mick Nelson Jagamarra were commissioned to make a sand painting at the Asia Society Gallery.
Not only was he a legendary founder of the Aboriginal Art Movement but he was also a pioneer in the country camp movement and he later moved west to his own station, called, Ilili. He retired from painting in the 1990’s. In his later years he spent much of his time in Alice Springs and in his 80’s moved to Hettie Perkins Aged Care Home in Alice Springs.
His key paintings represent Dreamings of the Budgerigar, Spider, Wallaby, Yam and Wild Potato however he also paints Men’s Ceremonies. His art is represented in corporate and private collections throughout the world. The National Gallery of Victoria paid $200,500 for his Yala Dreaming painting which was 54.5cm x 46cm in size. He is an extraordinary man and one who is one of the most well known and famous Western Desert artists.
Central Art had the privilege of acquiring one of his paintings and several of his coolamon’s. In the painting Billy used traditional aboriginal iconography to represent ceremonial places associated with the Mount Denison area, which is found North West of Papunya in Central Australia. He is a traditional custodian of this Dreaming, which is determined by his skin name (the Tjapaltjarri and Tjungurrayi skin groups hold this Dreaming). The ceremony involves the elders preparing the ceremonial ground and supervising the dancers being painted with the appropriate designs. A performance including singing ritual songs with boomerangs and clapping sticks occurs. He used similar designs on his coolamon’s which he hand crafted himself.
Billy was able to bring ancient cultural knowledge, stories and lore into the modern era with his artwork providing the link. Central Art acknowledges the important role that Billy has made for Aboriginal Art and highly recommends Billy’s artworks as he is considered a highly collectable artist and his art would make a solid investment piece.
Artist has Passed Away
Out of respect for Aboriginal culture Central Art has removed the artist's photograph.
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Important copyright notice
The Copyright of all images and documentation remains with Sabine Haider. The Australian Copyright Act protects all artists from unauthorised copying by giving control over original works of art to the artist by law. However depending on the use proposed, Sabine Haider from Central Art – Aboriginal Art Store can facilitate reproduction of works with the permission of the artist as we have developed close relationships over the years with many individual painters and craftspeople.
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