Ralph, Thanks for your comment although I’m not sure that …

Comment on Birth of an art movement: the untold story by Kieran Finnane.

Ralph, Thanks for your comment although I’m not sure that any of what you say contradicts the account of the Aboriginal curators. In the article I have quoted Bobby West Tjupurrula from the interview I did with him on the instigating spark for the movement. Here is how he puts it in the catalogue:

“Pintupi people were having a hard time at Papunya. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of arguments and they wanted that to change … The Pintupi men wanted to show people in Papunya that they had really strong law, Tingarri. … They were giving it as a gift, that Tingarri. Warlpiri, Luritja, Anmatyerr, were watching, waiting for their turn …

“After that, after Tingarri, that’s when they did dot painting, body painting. Then they did that [Honey Ant] mural at the school, made it public, letting everyone know they were all together.”

In 1999 Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula gave a similar account to Paul Sweeney of ‘big ceremonies’ just before Geoffrey Bardon’s arrival:

“All the tjilpis in one place, big mob of old men teaching us. Not only Pintupi; there was Warlpiri, some Arrernte.”

Tolson’s account is quoted by Vivien Johnson in her book Streets of Papunya: The Re-invention of Papunya Painting (pp 64-5) when she is considering reasons from an Aboriginal perspective that Papunya people might have had for picking up their paintbrushes.

Bardon himself acknowledges this impetus for the murals in his 2004 account: “These murals as conceived by the Western Desert people, as I was to find out, were to satisfy an Aboriginal community split quite dramatically between tribal groups.” He characterised the ceremonies that had taken place as having required “a compromise between the Anmatjira, Aranda, Pintupi, Loritja and Warlpiri forms” and similarly the appropriateness of the murals had to be negotiated “between the four tribal groups at Papunya”. (Quoted by Johnson, p65)

Diane, Bardon’s invaluable contribution to the movement is acknowledged by the curators. The challenge I have highlighted is to his primacy as an instigator. In that story, the emphasis of the Aboriginal curators is on their own cultural processes. Luke Scholes’ essay gives a detailed account of Bardon’s role in his Papunya years, while also documenting the contributions of other non-Aboriginal people.

I don’t think any of the curators of this exhibition can be seen to be responding to an agenda of “government authorities”.

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