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Recording | Fred Myers in conversation with Mantua Nangala and Marlene Nampitjinpa

On December 6, 2023, Pintupi western desert artists Mantua Nangala and Marlene Nampitjinpa met with long time friend and anthropologist Fred Myers at the Drill Hall Gallery to discuss Pintupi painting and life. The conversation was insightful and generous and spanned the early life of the artists, Fred Myers research from the 1970’s and Pintupi painting to the current day.

Sincere thanks to Marlene, Mantua and Fred for undertaking the long journey to Canberra to participate in this event, to Howard Morphy for moderating and to Georgia Curran and Richard Johnson for their help in documenting it. The recorded conversation is hard to hear in spots and very clear in others. It is well worth watching.

Marlene Nampitjinpa was born at Ngaminya, south of Kiwirrkura, c1959. She is the daughter of artist Nancy Nungurrayi, and the niece of Naata Nungurrayi. As a child, she walked with her family to Papunya, later living at Yayayi before settling at Kintore, where she worked in the clinic for many years. She married Andrew Spencer Tjapaltjarri, who occasionally painted for Papunya Tula Artists. Marlene began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 2014, mostly painting the stories associated with sites Ngaminya, Marrapinti, Tjuntulpul, Irrututu and Karrilwarra. She is a long-time mediator for Pintupi communities, going back to her translation for Settle Down Country film and has been a spokesperson for Purple House for years. She served as board member and Chair of the Western Desert dialysis service, Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, and is currently a board member of the Kintore Clinic.

Mantua Nangala was born at Tjulyurru circa 1959. She is the daughter of Anatjari Tjampitjinpa and the sister of George Yapa Tjangala, Ray James Tjangala and Yinarupa Nangala, all of whom have painted for Papunya Tula Artists. Jeremy Long, a Government Patrol Officer, encountered Mantua and her family at the Wudungunya Rockhole, north-east of Jupiter Well, on one of his patrols in 1963. In 2022, the National Gallery of Australia featured five large scale paintings by Mantua in their 4th Annual Indigenous Art Triennale exhibition, ‘Ceremony’, curated by Hetti Perkins.

Fred Myers is the Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University. Myers has been involved in research with, and writing about, Western Desert Aboriginal people since 1973. His books include Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines (1986) and a book on the acrylic painting movement, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art (2002). He has edited or co-edited several volumes concerned with art and anthropology, art fields, the circulation of material culture, Indigenous identity, and the early projects of “self-determination” in the 1970s.

Howard Morphy is an Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the ANU. He has published widely in anthropology and museum studies with a primary focus on art, material culture and land rights. His books include Aboriginal Art (1998), Becoming Art: Exploring Cross-Cultural (2007) and most recently Museums, Infinity and the Culture of Protocols (2020).

More information on our exhibition Pintupi Way

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.