Ngaanyatjarra: Art of the Lands

By Oliver Ramsay

This article is part of our June theme, which focuses on Indigenous People and their human rights. Read our Editorial for more on this theme.

The Ngaanyatjarra lands stretch west some 1,000 kilometers from Alice Springs. They’re some of the remotest lands in the country and are home to 2,000 Aboriginal people spread across ten tiny communities. Unlike so many Aboriginal people, the Ngaanyatjarra have always owned their own land, both psychologically and then legally in 2005 with the largest native title decision in Australian history. Their relationship to this land dates back some 35,000 years.

Researcher Tim Acker and anthropologist John Carty recently explored the region and have uncovered the unique and wonderful artistic practices symbolic of the Ngaanyatajarra’s strongest value – connectedness to country. Their findings have been published in Ngaanyatjarra: Art of the Lands, containing the images, history and stories of the Western Desert Mob.

These are just some of the many images featured in the book.

Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles Tjapaltjarri, Tjamu Tjamu, 2005 2134×1524 mm: acrylic on Linen, Kayili Artists, National Gallery of Victoria

Jean Yinalanka Burke, Birds, Maruku Arts and Crafts, Maruku Collection

Ruby Reid, Bird, 2009, Tjanpi Desert Weavers


Annie Farmer, Pangkupirri, 2011, 13 x 860 mm: acrylic on canvas, Tjarlirli Art, courtesy of Sean and Jodi Habgood, photo courtesy of Marshall Arts

Pulpurru Davies, Wati Kutjarra, 2005 1524 x 1524 mm: acrylic on linen, Kayili Artists, The Marshall Collection, Adelaide

Ruby Reid, Papa (dog), 2010, Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Neville AcArthur, Lake Baker, 2007, 1022 x 765 mm: acrylic on linen, Kayili Artists, Lagerberg-Swift Collection

The Tjanpi Toyota, outside Papulankutja community, photo courtesy of Thisbe Purich, Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Nyarapayi Giles, Warmurrungu, 2011, 2090 x 1640 mm: acrylic on canvas, W. & V. McGeoch Collection, photo courtesy of Marshall Arts


Ngaanyatjarra: Art of the Lands published by UWA Publishing. More information available here.