Aboriginal Art Regions of Central Australia


Central Art represents over two hundred Australian Aboriginal artists from across the Central and Western desert regions. It is important for Aboriginal artists and their families to live on their homelands so they stay connected with the Dreamtime stories, song lines and dance cycles associated with their country.

There are many variations of styles of Aboriginal art, including within Central and Western art, which is at the forefront of contemporary Aboriginal art. Central Art is located in Alice Springs. The area on the map highlighted in green shows the art regions Central Art proudly represents.

Featured Central Desert Region: Mparntwe (Alice Springs)

We acknowledge the Arrernte people, the traditional custodians of Alice Springs. The Arrernte people call Alice Springs Mparntwe. Traditionally, the Central Arrernte lived in and around in Alice Springs, the Eastern Arrernte lived to the east of Alice Springs including at Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), and the Western Arrernte to the west, including at Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Mutitjulu and Watarrka (Kings Canyon). Alice Springs is the regional hub of Central Australia, attracting Aboriginal people from all over the Central and Western desert regions. Many of the Aboriginal artists represented by Central Art commute between their homelands and Alice Springs.

Featured Central Desert Region: Utopia

Utopia is homeland to the majority of Central Art's artists. Situated 250 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, Utopia consists of over twenty small outstations. Aboriginal artists from this region have been remarkably successful and continue to produce distinctive works that are collected by people in Australia and all over the world . Notable artists from this region include Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Minnie Pwerle, Barbara Weir and Gloria Petyarre. Aboriginal people in Utopia, particularly the elders, continue to harvest and consume traditional food and medicines.

Featured Central Desert Region: Yuendumu

Yuendumu is located on the Tanami Road some 293 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. This region is home to the Warlpiri people and is known for producing some of the finest Aboriginal artists such as Judy Watson Napangardi and Dorothy Robinson Napangardi. The community is also famous in the art world for the Yuendumu school doors on which Dreamtime stories were painted by senior men, so that Warlpiri kids would continue to have a strong link with their culture. In 1995 the doors were acquired and restored by the South Australian Museum. Other smaller Aboriginal art communities associated with Yuendumu are Willowra, Lajamanu, Nyirrpi and Mount Allen.

Featured Central Desert Region: Papunya

Papunya lies to the south of Yuendumu, 240 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. The community played an extremely important part in Aboriginal art history, as the birthplace of the Central and Western desert art movement. In 1971, school teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged senior men to paint on a blank school wall. In no time a striking new art style emerged which by the 1980s, began to attract national and then international attention as a significant art movement. Leading Aboriginal artists of the style included Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, Mick Namarari (Namararri) Tjapaltjarri and Daisy Leura Nakamarra.

Featured Central Regions: Ikuntji

Ikuntji, also known as Haasts Bluff, is not far from Papunya and 227 kilometres west of Alice Springs. It is homeland to the Western Arrernte, Pintupi and Pitjantjatjara people. Ikuntji art is known for its bold colours and traditional patterns. The senior women often paint their journey stories about their nomadic life, when they moved from place to place through the immense desert. This small community has produced internationally famous senior artists like Mitjili Napurrula and Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri. Other notable artists who were born or raised at Ikuntji include Makinti Napanangka, Daisy Jugadai Napaltjarri, Tjunkiya Napaltjarri, Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Eileen Napaltjarri, Nora Andy Napaltjarri, Ada Andy Napaltjarri, Molly Jugadai Napaltjarri, Norah Nelson Napaljarri and Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula. Watiyawanu (Mt Liebig) is a go-between community for families with connections to Haasts Bluff and Papunya.

Featured Central Desert Region: Watiyawanu

Watiyawanu, also known as Mount Liebig, lies on the western edge of the Greater MacDonnell Ranges, some 250 kilometres west of Alice Springs. Watiyawanu is is a go-between community for families with connections to Haasts Bluff, Papunya, Kintore and Kiwirrkura.

Watyiawanu Aboriginal Artists at Central Art - Aboriginal Art Store

Featured Central Region: Ntaria

Ntaria, 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs, is also known as Hermannsburg. Established as an Aboriginal mission in 1877, Hermannsburg is most famous as the home community of the esteemed Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira. Albert was taught watercolour landscape painting in the European style and became the first nationally and internationally recognised Aborginal artist. His landscapes became so well known that the area around Hermannsburg is often called Namatjira country. Artists painting in his style, among them many of his descendants, came to be known as the Hermannsburg School. Ntaria in later years also built a reputation for producing beautiful clay pottery, with sculptural elements and painted scenes representing culture, animals and Dreamings.

Featured Western Desert Regions: Walungurru and Kiwirrkura

Walungurru, also known as Kintore, lies 530 kilometres west of Alice Springs, on the Northern Territory/Western Australian border. This remote Aboriginal settlement which was founded by the Pintupi people in 1981 after they became dissatisfied with their circumstances in Papunya and wanted to return to their traditional country. Walungurru is an influential centre for the Western Desert movement. Traditionally, Dreamtime stories were illustrated on sand and rock. Nowadays, they are represented on canvas. Many famous artists such as Warlimpirrnga Tjapaljarri and Ronnie Tjampitjinpa reside at Walungurru and are members of the Papunya Tula Artists.

Featured Region Western Desert Region: Kiwirrkura

Kiwirrkurra, in the Gibson desert, is the most remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia and is 850 kilometres west of Alice Springs. The last nomadic Aborginal people, dubbed 'The Lost Tribe', came into Kiwirrkura in 1984. Acclaimed artist Warlimpirrnga Tjapaljarri was one of them. Many other Pintupi artists have emerged from Kintore and Kiwirrkura and are at the forefront of contemporary Aboriginal art. Papunya Tula Artists remains successful and continue to grow with emerging artists from the second generation.

Featured Central Desert Region: Mutitjulu

Some 400 kilometre south-west of Alice Springs and situated at the base of the world-famous landmark Uluru (Ayers Rock), is the community of Mutitjulu, home to Uluru's custodians. These people are known as Anangu, which means "people" in Pitjantjatjara. Other language groups are present in Mutitjulu and have connections with Uluru, including Yankunytjatjara, Luritja, Ngaanyatjarra and Arrernte people. Further to the west, near Docker River, on the edge of a large salt lake is the outstation and art community known as Tjukurla.

Featured Central Desert Region: Pukatja (Ernabella)

Pukatja, also formerly known as Ernabella, is an Aboriginal community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north of South Australia. Ernabella Arts, established in 1948, is one of Australia's oldest continuously running Aboriginal arts organisations. Its purpose is to provide a place “where senior women and men and young women and men practice and develop our art, in order to sustain, support and promote our cultural heritage, and to improve the lifestyle of our community’s members". During the 1950s and 1960s, Ernabella artists made art and craft using locally produced wool. Batik was successfully introduced after several of the Ernabella artists travelled to Indonesia in the 1970s. Ernabella artists became renowned for their batik work and printmaking. A substantial collection of Ernabella art can be seen at the National Museum of Australia, including a range of fine ceramics. Central Art has formed relationships with some of the senior women artists during their visits to Alice Springs for dialysis treatment.

Other Aboriginal Art Regions on the map : Balgo

Balgo is a small Aboriginal community in Western Australia, linked with both the Great Sandy Desert and the Tanami Desert. It is a hub for several tribes and the artists here are influenced by the collision of different cultural groups, producing art that is dynamic, daring and challenging. Balgo's famous artists' cooperative was established when some of the original members of the Papunya Tula movement left Papunya. Sought-after artists from Balgo include Susie Bootja Bootja Napaltjarri, Topsy Gibson Napaljarri, Eubena Nampitjin, Elizabeth Nyumi, Boxer Milner, Tjumpo Tjapanangka and Helicopter Tjungurrayi. Central Art showcased a unique work by Eubena Nampitjin in our 2010 exhibition, "Tradition to Modernity".

Other Aboriginal Art Regions on the map : Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land is one of the five regions of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located in the north-eastern corner of the Territory and is around 500 km from the capital, Darwin. Arnhem Land is the location of the oldest-known stone axe which scholars believe to be 35,500 years old .Arnhem Land is also famous for its Aboriginal rock art.

Please click onto the following links below to view artworks from Aboriginal art regions of the Central and Western Desert:

Aboriginal word glossary