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Naata Nungurrayi Panels now on display in Kambri Cultural Centre

Naata Nungurrayi (c.1932-), 10 panels from the Iconography series 2011-2014 – each panel 183 x 244 cm, Acrylic on canvas, ANU Art Collection.

Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Craig Edwards in memory of Edmund Charles Edwards and Alan Edmund Edwards, Teachers.

These ten panels are part of an epic cycle of 155 canvases painted by Naata Nungurrayi very late in her life. Her Iconography series consists of large-scale line drawings in black paint inscribed on to canvases primed with a resplendent ruby red. As such, this series marks a break with Naata’s earlier style and with the usual characteristics of Western Desert painting, since there is no elaboration, no filling-in, no more “dots”.

Naata began the Iconography series when she was in her 79th year. She had determined that the paintings would expose the bare bones of her “Dreamings”, reduced here to their essential lines.

Naata started her career in painting in 1994, living in the sparsely populated town of Kintore, 530 km west of Alice Springs, near the border between the Northern Territory and West Australia. She was already in her 60s and a respected elder of the Pintupi people. She began producing commissioned work for the Papunya Tula artists agency in 1996, from whence her fame spread.

Because of her age, family lineage and moral authority, the subject matter of her paintings (her “Dreamings”) has an unusual scope and significance within her community. Her imagery may refer to sacred women’s sites and women’s ceremonies in the Kintore and Kiwirrkura region, while she is also one of the few women who have the authority to represent aspects of the Tingari story, which is normally the prerogative of men.

The Tingari are a group of mythical characters who travelled over vast stretches of country, establishing rituals and creating particular sites. Their travels and mystical deeds are enshrined in the song, dance and story cycles which are sacred lore to the Pintupi people.

Another exceptional feature of these paintings is their explicit reference to rock engravings in the Central Desert. Many of the engravings are tens of thousands of years old, yet they remain legible to those, like Naata, who were raised in a traditional nomadic life.

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.