Interesting story but… In the 1970s there was mainstream interest in …

Comment on Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art by Tjapangati.

Interesting story but…
In the 1970s there was mainstream interest in preserving and showcasing Western Desert culture and it was this interest that drove both the art movement at Papunya and in an ephemeral way at Yuendumu.
At Papunya, Geoffrey Bardon shaped his artists to produce art for a newly emerging market.
The artists were not self consciously engaged in cultural renaissance, they simply wanted money to access the goods of the society they lived on the fringes of. Ian Dunlop’s video of the interaction between Pintupi/Luritja people and Bardon in the early ’70s illustrates this nicely.
Painting at Papunya had nothing to do with insecurity of their murals, it had everything to do with having Bardon on hand and a market for their work and being paid.
That wasn’t on offer at Yuendumu at that time except for the one off museum project.
The lavishly constructed men’s museum was funded by government to address some of the sins of assimilation, to restore Aboriginal pride, in a changing political landscape.
But Aboriginal people had changed and there wasn’t much interest in protecting sacred items in the museum so these were neglected or returned to country to rot away, as is the custom.
There was no direct connection between the museum and painting for the market at the time and it was much later that the art movement took off in Yuendumu.
Even when it did start up Warlpiri men had little to do with it and women were mostly the artists.
So the museum doesn’t really connect with the Western Desert art movement as this story suggests and there can be no legitimate claim to usurp the Pintupi/Luritja originators.

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