Dorothy Napangardi killed in car accident

Born early 1950's - 1st June, 2013

One of Australia's prominent Aboriginal artists, senior Walpiri women,Dorothy Napangardi was killed in a car accident near Alice Springs last weekend.

She was a winner in 2001 of the prestigious National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Awards and was regarded as one of Australia's leading indigenous contemporary artists.

Born at Mina Mina near Lake Mackay in the Tanami Desert her painting career began in 1987 and flourished in the mid to late 90's. 

 She grew up at Yuendumu, but spent most of her life at Alice Springs.  She had little schooling but learnt about her Dreamtime stories that she painted from her elders.  Her father was a senior lawman.

Her works on Mina Mina and the salt plains have been purchased by galleries, museums and private collectors worldwide.

Dorothy lived to the most part a traditional life and was out on a hunting trip with her family in the outback bush not far from Alice Springs when the accident happened.

WANDJINA the creator spirits

The most powerful image of The Kimberley is the Wandjina rock art, found in the caves of north-west Western Australia.

The Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Woonambal people trace their ancestry directly back to the Wandjina spirit ancestors.


Wandjina are only found in the Kimberley region, nowhere else in Australia.


 Each image of the Wandjina, painted on the rock caves, is said to have formed at the end of their creation activity on earth after they had created the land forms, the plants, animals and humans.  At the end of their work they lay down in the cave and turned into a painting.

This Wandjina is deeply spiritual to the people of The Kimberley area and a lot of the caves are now protected, many have been and still are hidden to protect them.  These paintings are said to have been done from spiritual beings with no human intervention.  Their image may be copied on bark, paper or canvas for commercial purposes, but their power is greatly diminished when it takes on another medium and painted by a human.


Wandjina is a generic term and there are individual Wandjina's with individual names ie Jundart, Lightning Wandjina. 

All Wandjina, when painted, have similar features...they are always painted in full frontal, they have large "owl-like" eyes, long nose and no mouth.  Although stories vary from clan to clan, it is said that if the Wandjina had a mouth and he opened it the rains and floods would come.   Other's say having no mouth stops gossip and telling sacred stories.


When the indigenous people of The Kimberley were displaced during early European settlement,  the senior law men who were responsible for retouching the Wandjina in the caves weren't able to continue to do this important task.

It had always been important to keep the painting fresh as this in turn meant that their sacred lands would also remain fresh.


In 1996, senior lawman, Charlie Numbulmoore, returned to the caves to retouch the sacred Wandjina, after doing so he said these words

"I made you very good now, I don't know how I did it, very good.  You must be glad because I made your eyes look like new.  That eye, you, like this my eye, I made them new for you people.  My eye has life, and your eye has life too, because I made it new.  Don't try to bring rain, by wife might drown with rain.  The rain might drown her....."


There has always been some debate whether the Wandjina is the oldest cave painting, older than the Mimi Spirit, but there does seem to be evidence that the Mimi did predate the Wandjina.

The Wandjina has always been, and still remains, one of the most significant images of The Kimberley.



How Aboriginal art is helping remote communities

OVER the past 30 years Aboriginal art has had a massive leap to fame worldwide. 


This has impacted on communities in a very positive way.   Some communities were extremely impoverished and provided little or no opportunities for the people to find employment. 

Now, many artists live and work from their homelands, and are providing for their families and their communities.  The local art centres, often the hub of the community, are giving a level of support to the people living there that the government hasn't been able to do.  Many of these art centres have now become self-sufficient.


In the past many people had to leave their communities, forced to find employment in other areas to support families, thus losing social and spiritual bonds with their homelands.


Art has given the people, living a traditional lifestyle in remote areas, a source of income and played an extremely important role by passing on spiritual information and messages that could have been all but forgotten by future generations.

Now with an absolute renaissance in Aboriginal art and culture, non indigenous people are also learning more and more about the indigenous people of Australia, and with that a new found respect for those who call the remote areas of Australia their home and the home of their ancestors.

Aboriginal art has and is continually passing on cultural knowledge that many thought was lost.  The younger generations of Aboriginal families who grew up away from their traditional homelands living in cities and country towns, now have the opportunity to learn more about their time-honoured customs thru the paintings that are being created.

Urban Aboriginal art has also emerged as another form of artistic expression for indigenous people who left their homelands. 


Originally the artists painted about their experiences, often very difficult, living in a society that was very different from their own, where getting acceptance was extremely hard.  

Now urban Aboriginal artists are very much a part of mainstream Australian art and the links between the traditional and the contemporary styles have emerged to create some amazing paintings.

What is Tingari?

The Tingari relates to the journey's of the ancestors, men and women who were there at the beginning of creation, travelling across the land creating the hills, the mountains, plants, animals and humans.

Tingari is a sacred "Men's Business" ceremony.

When the young boys reach about eleven or twelve they to have leave their mothers and go with the senior men into the country to learn about the land and the life that it protects.  Once the young boys have passed their tests they are then initiated and take on the knowledge and the responsibility that goes with it.

Tingari has been a part of Pintupi law since conception, and the paintings of Tingari have been created since the early days of the Aboriginal art movement and are a part of Aboriginal history.


Originally drawn on the body for ceremony, now on canvas to educate those willing to learn.

Elements such as linked concentric circles and squares have become the icons of the Tingari depicition.

Whilst a lot of the Tingari paintings are in the traditional earth colours, artists such as Ronnie Tjampitjinpa have created their Tingari paintings using big bold shapes with vivid colours such as oranges, blues, greens and purples.

The circles and squares have become quite irregular in many of the Tingari paintings of today as artists add other dotted and filled-in areas. 

Regular shapes have been distorted, pulled in various directions on the canvas as the artists work on their painting, creating a brilliant piece of artwork while still maintaining the integrity of the sacred Tingari ceremony and protecting parts of the story that are restricted to all but the initiated.


Tingari Cycle by Ronnie Tjampitjin

Tiwi painting styles

Tiwi paintings are colourful with strong bold designs.

Paintings feature Tiwi liftstyle depicting plants, animals and sea-life as well as spiritual images.

Natural earth pigments or ochres were crushed and mixed with tree resins to create paint that could be applied.  Frayed bark, sticks, feathers and hair were used as brushes, many of these mediums are still used, but today a lot of artists prefer brushes that are readily available.

Traditionally artists would paint on the body for ceremony and also painted their tools and weapons. 

Tiwi artists have experimented and embraced new creative ways to express themselves;  screen printing, batik and ceramics are now being produced, along with painting on canvas and paper.  Flattened bark is also used to paint.  Some of the artists have experimented with guache and acrylic paints to create new designs, but also to work with traditional designs.

Art of the Tiwi

The Tiwi people live on Melville and Bathurst Islands north of Darwin. 

In the 1900's buffalo shooters came to the island and in 1911 a Catholic mission was established at Nguiu on Bathurst Island.

There are several differences between the art, sculpture and ceremony of the Tiwi islanders and indigenous people who lived on the mainland of Australia.

Tiwi ceremonies are about the initiation, Kulama, that celebrates life and the mortuary rites of the Pukumani.

Tiwi women play an important role in ceremony and are also actively involved in the arts.  In the beginning, when the ancestors came during creation, an old women, Mudungkaka, rose out of the ground at Murupianga in south-east of Melivlle Island.  She was the creator of the land and the rivers.  She bought with her 2 daughters and a son, their decendants settled throughout the island.

The Pukumani ceremony has produced a lot of great art painted on the Pukumani poles.  These poles represent the deceased, there can be up to 20 poles for one grave site which show the seniority of the deceased.

Bark baskets are painted elaborately for these ceremonies and are placed on the top of the poles at the end of the Pukumani ceremonies.

The Tiwi  are great weavers and carvers; elaborately painted and carved spears are still done today, along with woven head and arm bands created with feathers, fibres and reeds in intricate detail.

In the 1930's the Tiwi developed their art skills with sculptures of figures, birds and animals carved out of wood and elaborately painted.

Sculpture has traditionally been the Tiwi's main art form, now paintings, that were originally done on bark in ochres for ceremoney, are today painted on paper and flattened bark for the commercial market.


Aboriginal Artists living outside traditional lifestyle

There are many Aboriginal artists who are living outside the traditional lifestyle that have played an important part in the emergence of the Aboriginal art movement.  Artists such as Sarrita and Tarisse King, who were taught about desert lifestyle and the spiritual customs by their father, the late and great Bill King Jungala.

Thru their work both these artists show a great deal of respect for the time-honoured traditions and their work demonstrates a true knowledge of country.   They have emerged as artists with their own individual style and are now exciting many art buyers both nationally and internationally.

For many years the urban artists who were not bought up in the traditional lifestyle had trouble getting their work recognized.  The interest in Aboriginal art was based on the reflection of an age-old culture painted by artists who had a background of traditional lifestyle.  People assumed that authentic Aboriginal art must come from the desert, the Kimberley or Arnhemland and were slow to recognize the value of many Aboriginal artists who didn't fit into this category.

 Today many "urban" artists have emerged and have played a key role in continuing and enhancing the Aboriginal art movement.

Ochres to acrylic paint

Traditionally Aboriginal people used natural earth pigments to paint on their bodies and in the caves.  Drawings were also done in the sand.  Things like feathers and pieces of fur, wood, leaves were stuck on the body with tree resins and plant glues.  Blood from animals such as kangaroos was used to paint, and in the Kimberley area is still used today.

At the beginning of the painting movement the artists at Papunya were supplied with water colours and acrylic paints, but other areas of the desert the Aboriginal artists still used the traditional earth pigments, at first they were reluctant to change and to reproduce sacred ancestral designs to be viewed by the public.

Because of the dramatic changes in Aboriginal lifestyle due to European occupation, there was concern amongst many of the seniors that a lot of important Aboriginal culture and spirituality would be lost if there wasn't a permanent record.

After much debate by these Aboriginal elders it was decided that some aspects of their sacred stories could be told on canvas as it would be a permanent statement of their culture. 

In 1985 the co operative, Warlukurlangu Artists Association was formed to implement this policy so that paintings could be viewed in the public domain.


Glass art usually refers to large contemporary works of art, one-off creations which are substantially or wholly made in glass.

Art Glass and Studio Glass are smaller pieces, could be made in groups or limited editions of the same piece.

Glassblowing is an ancient technique that involves blowing a bubble into molten glass and from there creating various objects from vases, glasses to laboratory equipment, it was invented by the Phoenicians around 50BC. 

The writer, Daphne du Maurier, was descended from a family of glass-blowers in the 18th Century France and she wrote a novel “The Glass-Blowers” about her ancestors.

Two of the glass artists that Red Desert Dreamings represent Australian glassblowers, Nicholas Salton and Tina Cooper, have produced some amazing works of art in glass from fine sculptural pieces to to decorative bowls and plates.

"Glass is alchemic. You mix dirt together, burn it with fire at about 1300°C, which makes it clear and molten, you control it with water, wood, air and steel and never completely master it. I love it," says Lucas when asked about his choice of material.

Lucas has exhibited in Canada, Dubai, Germany, Japan, L.A, and most recently exhibited at the Onesimmo Fine Art Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida. Lucas also recently won an Arts Entertainment and Design award and an Export Award at the Premier of Queensland Export Awards.

"Exquisite", "Unique" and "Dramatic "are some of the adjectives used to describe Tina Cooper‘s glass sculptures. One of the leading figures in Australian Studio glass, she uses Nature - Earth, Fire, Water and Air - to create her art, reflecting her passionate relationship with the environment from which she sources her inspiration.


Aboriginal Art Australia.....facts

Australian Aboriginal art is the oldest ongoing art tradition in the world, originally painted on the body for ceremony, on the walls of caves and on the ground.  The culture goes back over 40,000 years.

There are more than 100,000 individual rock art sites in caves around the country.

Australian Aboriginal art is now a world-wide art movement.

Before European occupation there were more than 200 different languages and over 600 dialects spoken, all but a handful of Aboriginal languages now exist, approx 20!

The Didgeridoo

originated in a small corner of north-east Arnhem Land and is the oldest wind instrument.  It is symbolic of Aboriginal music and is now played in many music bands by non indigineous people.  The didigeridoo or "yidaki" is made from tree branches that have been hollowed out by termites.

The term "Songlines"

refer to the pathways that criss-cross the country.  The ancient spirit ancestors followed these pathways when they created the people, animals and plant-life.  These ancient boundaries connected communities and created the pathway for the Aboriginal people to share their songs of creation.

Aboriginal people are connected to the land because of their spirit ancestors, they share this knowledge thru their ceremonies where painting, dance and music are all a part. 

The stories or lore is called The Dreamtime, these Dreamtime stories are celebrated and passed down generation to generation to ensure that Aboriginal culture is ongoing.