Central and Western Desert Art - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Central and Western Desert Art

Since 2002, USC has acquired a large number of works from the Central and Western Desert regions of Australia by artists including Long Tom Tjapananka, Johnny Warrangula Tjupurrula, and Pegleg Tjampitjinpa due to the generosity of a number of donors. In 2016, this representation was further strengthened with the major donation of six works including monumental works by senior artists Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa, Tommy Waston and Naata Nungurrayi.

Many of these works are on display at our Sunshine Coast campus in the Ngabung Djamga Gallery located in the Innovation Centre. Ngabung djamga means Mother Messenger in Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi language.

Ngabung Djamga Gallery

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This work by Naata Nungurrayi relates to a sacred waterhole located in the artist’s Ngura (Country) west of Kiwirrkura in Western Australia. Nungurrayi is a senior elder and her painting deals with women’s ceremonies, activities connected with the collection of bush foods and women’s law found in Tingari song cycles.

Naata Nungurrayi’s painting is dominated by several large groupings of U-shaped lines, which refer to women. They are also associated with designs painted on women’s bodies during ceremony. The story associated with this painting also addresses activity and movement as it is concerned with a large group of women who stopped at this site and gathered kampurapara (desert raisins), a plant found throughout central Australia. The fruit can be eaten or ground into flour and baked to make damper.

The loose black line work in Nungurrayi’s painting is partially covered by dense, vividly coloured dots which is a common stylistic feature in the work of Pintupi women artists. The heavily textured surface forms a shifting field of colour encompassing strongly saturated oranges and pale ochres linking back to the desert landscape.

—Dr Lisa Chandler

Naata Nungurrayi
Australia born 1932, Pintupi
Untitled n.d.
Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 150.0 x 180.0cm
USC Art Collection. Acquired in 2005. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Christopher Simon.
© Naata Nungurrayi/Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

On display
USC Sunshine Coast 
Ngabung Djamga Gallery
Innovation Centre
Ground level

George Tjungurrayi’s intricate painting with its maze of lines and geometric patterns refers to sacred sites, ceremonial designs and narratives of the Tingari ancestors. The lines and their similarity in tone creates a dazzling optical effect.

Tjungurrayi was born near Kiwirrkura, Western Australia and moved to Papunya in 1960. He began painting around 1977, assisting and learning from some of the more senior artists who founded the Papunya Tula painting movement. His paintings relate to the Tingari ancestors, their journey paths and locations where important activities took place during the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). These sacred sites, for which Pintupi people are custodians, are honoured in ceremony and those located within the artist’s ancestral country include Wala Wala, Kiwirrkura, Kulkuta, Karku, Kilpina and Wilkinkarra (Lake MacKay).

—Dr Lisa Chandler

George Tjungurrayi
Austalia born c.1943, Pintupi
Untitled n.d.
synthetic polymer paint on linen, 152.8 x 182.6cm
USC Art Collection. Acquired in 2005. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Christopher Simon.
© George Tjungurrayi/Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

Mitjili Napurrula began painting on canvas in the early 1990s. Her bold works connect to the landscape, plant forms and her father’s Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) and Country. She is a custodian of her father’s Kulata (spear Dreaming). This was taught to her by her mother following the artist’s marriage at Papunya in the 1960s to Long Tom Tjapanangka, another senior painter.

In this painting, the rhythmic patterns of stem and leaf shapes across the canvas refer to watiya tjuta (many trees). More specifically, they are connected with plants such as the tecoma vine, which is used to create shafts for hunting spears. Trees used for spear making are abundant in the artists' father’s country in the Gibson Desert south of Kintore, Northern Territory where the landscape is dotted with desert oaks, rocky outcrops and red sandhills. A line of rolling hills stretches across the top of this canvas connecting the work with the physical features of her father’s country.

—Dr Lisa Chandler

Mitjili Napurrula
Australia born 1945, Luritja
Untitled 2002
Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 150.0 x 180.0cm
USC Art Collection. Acquired in 2002. Donated by Christopher Simon.
© Mitjili Napurrula/Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

On display
USC Sunshine Coast 
Ngabung Djamga Gallery
Innovation Centre
Ground level