Yuendumu Aboriginal Art: Aboriginal Paintings from the Central Desert


Yuendumu is located on the Tanami track some 293 kilometres North West of Alice Springs in central Australia. This region is home to the Warlpiri people and is known worldwide for producing some of the finest Aboriginal artists such as Judy Watson Napangardi and Dorothy Robinson Napangardi. Yuendumu is also known famously in the art world for the Yuendumu school doors which were created by senior men with the intention for Warlpiri kids to continue having a strong link with their culture. In 1995 a series of these doors was acquired South Australian Museum and were restored. Other smaller regions closely associated with Yuendumu are Willowra, Lajamanu, Nyirrpi, Mount Allen.

Yuendumu art holds a unique place in contemporary Australian Aboriginal art. Collectively, the works have a highly characteristic style and a colour palette that sets them apart from all other desert paintings. Yuendumu artists incorporate strong traditional iconography in their work.

The country surrounding Yuendumu includes many places with spiritual power created by ancestral beings in the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) which is sacred to Warlpiri people. One particular site is the Mina Mina, a ceremonial place belonging to Japanangka and Japangardi men and Napanangka and Napangardi women: their associated country continues far to the west of Yuendumu to the sand hill country. Both prominent artists Dorothy Napangardi and Judy Watson Napangardi depicts the sacred Mina Mina is their work.

Mina Mina is also the birthplace of the digging stick. A large stand of Eucalyptus trees (Casuarina Decaisneana) now stands where tradition says the digging sticks emerged from the ground. The significance of this story is evident in many of the women’s art works where they continue to incorporate bold iconic images, particularly digging sticks, coolamons and bush potato, into their works.

Today the Warlpiri women regularly gather at this ceremonial place to re-enact this Dreaming story. Here they paint each other’s bodies with Dreaming designs and chant and dance the age old creation story.

Central Art has strong ties with Yuendumu and support many artists from this region

Aboriginal word glossary