Kintore and Kiwirrkurra: Aboriginal Art from the Western Desert


Kintore is a hub for the Pintupi artist with a further smaller community of artists at Kiwirrkurra.

The dominant narrative of Pintupi art (at times referred to as Papunya art) is the Tingari cycle – the story of the extensive journeys of Pintupi ancestors as they covered the vast expanse of the desert to create landforms and teach law. The Tingari is associated with secret and sacred men’s business and the dominant mode is overtly geographic with a circle and line motif. The works are usually presented in traditional colours in raw pigments, clays and charcoal: red, yellow, white and black.

The Pintupi artists follow the strict custom that only certain people have the right (and copyright) to paint certain stories. The art has several layers of meaning, the deepest layer only understood by the initiated. In order to produce public art, the artists use journey lines or over dotting as a device to protect the highly secretive and private elements.

Pintupi women did not commence painting until a decade ago but the works that have emerged have often eclipsed many of the men’s art with the exception of a few of the original male painters.

The women’s work is abstract interpretations of Kungka Kutjarra (two women) Dreaming, the story of female ancestors who travelled across country. Favoured themes are the sites relating to the rockhole east of Kiwirrkurra and the soakage site at Walungurru. In other works women artists depict elements of their ceremonies. Women’s work is often produced in a communal environment.

The appeal to Central Art of Kintore Aboriginal Art and Kiwirrkurra Aboriginal Art is the rawness and ‘contemporary look’ while still adhering to traditional customs.

Central Art has a concern at the potential precarious situation for the art from this region because of the elderly age of many of the current artists. Because of this, Central Art supports works from younger artists in order to maintain this very significant art movement.

Central Art is very encouraged by the work being produced by Kiwirrkurra Aboriginal artists. It was only two decades ago that Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, with his two brothers Walala Tjapaltjarri and Thomas Tjapaltjarri and several other relatives made contact for the first time with Europeans when they returned to the Kiwirrkurra region. They had been living a nomadic life and were able to survive as their ancestors had done for thousands of years because of their intimate knowledge of the land, its flora and fauna and waterholes.

Warlimpirrnga's paintings describe the sacred landscape and significant sites in abstract minimalism and represent new and exciting interpretations of their spiritual attachment to their country.

Aboriginal word glossary