Modjarrki (the freshwater crocodile)

Wally Mandarrk

Modjarrki (the freshwater crocodile), n.d.

Friendly Country – Friendly People was an exhibition of works by Papunya Tula artists which toured south-eastern Australia in 1991–92. In developing the exhibition, the curators, Dick Kimber and Joanne Boniface, had three aims. As well as presenting works of exemplary quality and illustrating the range of work being produced by artists painting for Papunya Tula at that time, they also sought to present works which together were illustrative of a broad area of desert homeland country, even though each painting was of a specific site.

The Papunya Tula art movement began in the early 1970s when a group of Western Desert men at Papunya, a settlement 240km north-west of Alice Springs, began using acrylic paint and other new materials to paint lasting images of their Dreaming stories which formerly had been given temporary expression through the modes of ceremonial body decoration and sand drawings.1 The Western Desert art movement, which grew from these developments, has since gained international attention, with works by Papunya Tula artists being included in many major Australian and international collections and fetching record prices on the art market.

Cbus purchased all the works from this exhibition in 1991, a visionary acquisition which has ensured the preservation of a historic visual snapshot of this immensely significant development in Australian art. Many of the artists who were included in Friendly Country – Friendly People have gone on to establish respected careers and produce works which continue to record their rich spiritual life and dynamic relationship with their country. The artists include Alison Anderson Nampitjinpa, Sandra Nampitjinpa, Pansy Napangati, Narpula Scobie Napurrula, Freddy West Tjakamarra, Tony Tjakamarra, Anatjari Tjampitjinpa, Shorty Jackson Tjampitjinpa, George Yapa Tjangala, Uta Uta Tjangala, Benny Tjapaltjarri, Cameron Tjapaltjarri, Dr George Tjapaltjarri, Hilary Tjapaltjarri, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, George Tjapanangka, John John Bennett Tjapangati, Kanya Tjapangati, Timmy Payungka Tjapangati, George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi, George Ward Tjungurrayi, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, Gideon Jack Tjupurrula and Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula.

Many of the Friendly Country – Friendly People works record stories from the Tingari cycle, a series of myths relating to the creation of important Dreaming sites throughout the Western Desert lands. Many paintings represent the Tingari men gathering for ceremonies at particular sites. Numerous works refer to rock hole sites, such as Narripungu, a water soak with a subterranean cave into which the Tingari men disappeared. Others feature animals related to particular Dreamings, such as the snake associated with the creation of Lake Mackay, or the honey ant which is strongly associated with the area of Papunya. The artists on the following pages represent a range of the works from this collection.

George Ward Tjungurrayi often paints stories relating to the site of Lake MacDonald and in 2004 won the Wynne Prize for landscape painting. His works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Kanya Tjapangati painted Tingari stories from sites around his country. His works are held by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and in several private collections.

Narpula Scobie Napurrula paints women’s Dreaming stories. Her work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Australian Museum, the Holmes à Court Collection and the Kelton Foundation.

Benny Tjapaltjarri often painted stories of the pokaru bandicoot and hare wallaby Dreamings. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and Artbank.

Dr George Tjapaltjarri painted Tingari stories before going blind, and was highly sought after for his innovative linear designs. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and the Holmes à Court Collection.

George Yapa Tjangala paints Tingari stories from around his home north of Kiwirrkurra and an eagle hawk Dreaming. His works are held in the collections of Museum Victoria, the Kelton Foundation and the University of Virginia, United States.

Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula often painted water Dreaming stories, as well as hare wallaby, yam and dingo. His works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, most state galleries, the Australian Museum, Artbank, Flinders University Art Museum, the Kelton Foundation, the Holmes à Court Collection and Wollongong City Gallery.


1 Vivien Johnson, Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists, IAD Press, Alice Springs, 2008, p. 2.