The Western Desert style of acrylic painting is one of the most internationally recognised styles of Aboriginal art. The eruption of this artistic movement in the 1970s is associated with various groups from across the Western Desert region including the Pintupi, Luritja, Walpiri, Arrernte, and Anmatyerre peoples who were forcibly moved from their lands and resettled in Papunya – a settlement about 240 km north west of Alice Springs.1 It was there that community Art Teacher Geoff Bardon, encouraged artists to draw on their own culture for artistic expression, rather than having to replicate European styles, and invited them to create works using acrylic paints, canvases and other surfaces, including the famous Honey Eating Dreaming mural.2

The intricate symbols that they painted were embedded with deep meaning, depicting the Tjukurpa (Dreaming), the time when the earth was created and ancestral beings wandered across the earth to shape the landscape and establish the Law.3 These creation stories were also painted on rock art with ochres, clays and charcoal, and on the body during ceremonies, on weapons, shields, sacred objects and even as ‘ground paintings’ during ceremonies.4

The movement began an explosion of artistic expression in the Western Desert, with the birth of Art Centres whose works are now famous across the world.

The art was an outward expression and record of stories and culture for the groups who had been dispossessed of their lands and their identity.5  

In the last two decades many new Art Centres have sprung up across the Western Desert, giving birth to an increasingly diverse range of artistic styles.

We’re lucky enough to have a number of our friends from the Western Desert Art Centres who join us each year at the Fair and who will be returning to join us for our 10th Anniversary celebrations to showcase their art works and their culture.

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Western Desert Mob

Western Desert Mob (WDM) is an alliance of Aboriginal Art Centres from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia.  Formed in 2007, WDM links seven leading Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centres, reflecting the area’s close cultural, family and creative connections. The WDM members include Maruku Arts, Minyma Kutjara Artists, Papulankutja Artists, Kayili Artists, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Tjarlirli Art and Warakurna Artists.

Image: Nyarapayi Giles, Tjukurla, Warmurrungu

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Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Celebrating life, creativity and country: Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a vibrant not-for-profit Aboriginal social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council. At its core, Tjanpi is about family and community – about walytja. Aboriginal women come together on country, collect grass, sculpt and weave, sing and dance and keep culture strong while creating beautiful, intricate and whimsical fibre art.

Image: Rene Kulitja from Mutitjulu (NT) at a Tjanpi artist camp for TarraWarra near Irrunytju (WA).

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Maruku Arts

Maruku is a not-for-profit art & craft corporation 100% owned and controlled by Anangu for over 30 years. Based at Uluru, Maruku operates a gallery, marketplace and indigenous tour experiences to the public. Representing the Central Desert Region with over 1000 established and emerging artists and craftspeople showcased nationally and internationally. Maruku aims to keep culture strong by building on traditional practices to provide effective co-ordination of marketing and income for Aboriginal people living in our region. 

Image: Dianne Strangways/, Tjulpu Tjuta

References 

  1. Australian Museum, Western Desert Art, http://australianmuseum.net.au/collection-stories-western-desert-art (May. 6, 2016).
  2. Australian Government, Papunya Tula Art Movement of the Western Desert, http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/papunya-tula-art (May. 6, 2016).  
  3. National Museum of Australia, Western Desert Art, http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/warakurna/western_desert_art (May. 6, 2016).
  4. Desert Dreams, Western Desert Art History, http://www.desertdreams.com.au/Western_Desert_Art_History.html. (May 6, 2016)
  5. http://australianmuseum.net.au/collection-stories-western-desert-art. (May 6, 2016)