RMIT Focus on Indigenous culture: Ngarara Place & Streets of Papunya

The launch on May 30 of RMIT University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and opening the newly completed Indigenous Garden – “Ngarara Place” – on RMIT’s City campus has kept the focus firmly on Indigenous culture during the busy events as part of the current RMIT Gallery exhibition Streets of Papunya.

The launch of RMIT’s RAP and the opening of “Ngarara Place” featured special guest performer Dan Sultan to celebrate National Reconciliation Week on our City campus.

Dan delighted audiences when he performed at the November 2013 opening of the RMIT Gallery exhibition Music, Melbourne + Me.

The RAP and RMIT’s current endeavours in reconciliation are the culmination of a 25-year journey that the University is determined to continue into the future.

Likewise, the Streets of Papunya exhibition is part of RMIT Gallery’s long standing commitment to showing exhibitions of Indigenous artwork, and works by Indigenous artists. Here are some of the photos of the Streets of Papunya exhibition opening and public programs, which included visits by Papunya artists.

Indigenous art exhibitions at RMIT Gallery:

Streets of Papunya: The reinvention of Papunya painting

6 May – 11 June 2016

Celebrating the renaissance of painting that has occurred in one of the best-known locations of art production in Central Australia, since the establishment of the Papunya Tjupi Arts Centre in 2007.

Richard Bell: Imagining Victory

11 MARCH – 23 APRIL 2016

Leading Australian artist Richard Bell’s trilogy of video projects digs beneath the veneer of cultural integration to expose how racism can be deeply embedded and passed on to future generations. See the virtual tour of the exhibition.

Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning


This exhibition included works by Gija artists, both past and present, which explored aspects of the rich and significant story Garnkiny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming).

Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo


Warlayirti examined the aesthetic divergences and vibrancy that distinguishes the art of Balgo and the importance of Christianity to the Balgo community as a means of cross cultural communication.

Streets of Papunya video now live

Papunya was the place where contemporary desert art all began.

Streets of Papunya: The Reinvention of Papunya painting at RMIT Gallery until 11 June, curated by renowned Papunya scholar Vivien Johnson, tells the story of the renaissance of artwork from this renowned location and reveals the remarkable art of the women painters of Papunya today, the daughters of the men who founded the desert art movement at Papunya in the 1970s.

Watch the video, which features Vivien talking about the exhibition at RMIT Gallery, and painter Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, who travelled from Papunya to open the exhibition, and speak at the well attended floor talk the following day.

Charlotte  was taught to paint by her father Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, one of the founders of the desert art movement.

“It is now our turn to do the paintings,” Charlotte said. “It’s about our country, and our grandfather’s country.”


Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula standing between her work (left) Kapi Tjukurrpa – Kalipinypa, 2015 and (right) Water Dreaming in the Cliffs 1972, by her father Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra.



Papunya artists & their legacy: RMIT Gallery talk Thursday 26 May 1-2 pm


John Kean at RMIT Gallery’s Streets of Papunya exhibition, in front of “Artist’s Country, 1979” by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula.

Join us on Thursday 26 May 1-2 pm at RMIT Gallery’s Streets of Papunya exhibition when John Kean (above) talks about the original Papunya artists and their legacy.

An independent producer, curator, and writer, John has published extensively on Indigenous art and has an enduring relationship with Western Desert artists having worked as adviser to Papunya Tula Artists (1977-79) and interim administrator for Pintupi Homelands Health Service (1984-85). He will share observations derived from working and writing about this renowned location.

The magic of Papunya art touched The Age arts reviewer Robert Nelson, who called the RMIT Gallery exhibition’ beautiful’ and praised the ‘spellbinding works’. Read more.

Forty-five years ago Kaapa Tjampitjinpa and Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula were central to the formulation of contemporary desert art. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, they deployed their inherited iconography while exploring poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas.

Artistic dynasties are very important in Papunya. Artist Isobel Major Nampitjinpa visited RMIT Gallery while in Melbourne yesterday for the opening of Keepers of Place (new works by Papunya Tjupi artists) at Fortyfivedownstairs & posed at RMIT Gallery with her exquisite painting Tali which hangs alongside paintings by both her father and mother.


Family dynasty: Isobel Major Nampitjinpa at the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery. She stands in the middle of three family works – (left) her mother Punata Stockman Nungarrayi’s painting ‘Ilpitirri (Mt Denison)’, 2015, (middle) her father (Billy) Kumuntjayai Stockman Tjapaltjarri’s’ Untitled (Ngatitjirri Dreaming at Ilpitirri)’, 1975, and her own work (right) ‘Tali (Sandhill)’, 2011.

Exhibition curator Vivien Johnson explains, “There’s an elaborate genealogy “family tree” in the exhibition that connects each of the artists exhibiting with Papunya Tjupi with their fathers or grandfathers who were amongst the founders of the desert art movement in Papunya.

“Being realistic it obviously has something to do with the fact that’s there’s not many other paying occupations available in these places. But at the same time it also has to do with why people paint with the cultural, the social, all these dimensions of art that are really important as part of the role it plays in those communities.

“So dynasties are comparatively common in desert art as the years go by and Papunya being the birth place is the perfect place to observe this phenomenon and it is quite remarkable.”


Papunya Family Tree: Opening night, Streets of Papunya at RMIT Gallery. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography, 2016.

What: John Kean talk on Papunya artists and legacy

When: Thursday 26 May

Time: 1-2 pm

Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Bookings: (free event) click to book




Streets of Papunya: artist and curator talk


Left to right: Papunya artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri, Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula and curator Vivien Johnson at the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Artist and curator floor talk – Friday 6 May 1-2 pm

Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, painter and Chairperson of Papunya Tjupi Art Centre (2010-14) and Vivien Johnson, an eminent scholar of Papunya art, will be giving a floor talk on the works in the Streets of Papunya exhibition, exploring the legacy and renaissance of art work at this renowned location in Central Australia, and the extraordinary work of the women painters in this celebrated location of art production.

The Papunya Tjupi art centre was established in the Northern Territories’ Western Desert region in 2007, and the Streets of Papunya exhibition showcases work from the centre, as well as the region’s historical association with painting.

Papunya is a Western Desert town regarded as the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal painting, dating back to Albert Namatjira’s final paintings, executed in 1959, through to examples from the 1970s and 80s when the town was simultaneously experiencing it’s ‘glory days’ and dark times as the ‘carpetbagging capital of the desert’, and on to the modern renaissance

When: Friday 6 May – artist and curator floor talk. Free – all welcome.

Time: 1-2 pm

Location: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne.



Welcome: RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies (far right) shows Papunya artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri (holding her hand), Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula and curator Vivien Johnson around the Streets of Papunya exhibition which opens 6-8 pm Thursday 5 May at RMIT Gallery.

Making Connections: Artists visit Ngarara Willim Centre


(seated, left to right) Martha McDonald Napaltjarri and Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, with staff from RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

While at RMIT University for the Streets of Papunya exhibition opening and floor talk at RMIT Gallery, visiting artists Martha McDonald Napaltjarri and Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula were given a warm welcome and afternoon tea by staff at RMIT’s Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The Ngarara Willim Centre supports and encourages indigenous students throughout their studies at RMIT, and Martha and Charlotte, who both have strong backgrounds as educators in their community, were interested in hearing about the Centre’s activities.


Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula in between her work (left) and her father Long jack Phillipus Tjakamarra’s work, in the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula is the eldest daughter of Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, one of the founders of the desert art movement and one time Chairman of Papunya Tula Artists. Her mother was Long Jack’s first wife Suzette Napaltjarri, who was the daughter of important Pintupi elder Kamutu, one of the earliest Pintupi arrivals in Hermannsburg from the west.

Charlotte learnt to paint by assisting her father Long Jack on his canvases, but was busy with her teaching commitments and did not paint herself for Warumpi Arts in the 1990s and early 2000s. She has been a member of Papunya Tjupi Arts since its inception.

For a long time Charlotte was active in various teaching roles in Papunya School, especially the preschool. Although she has stepped back because of her health, she continues her commitment to education and cultural maintenance through her involvement as a language consultant on the 4th Edition of Ken Hansen’s Pintupi/Luritja Dictionary.


Martha McDonald Napaltjarri next to two of her paintings in the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery.

Martha McDonald Napaltjarri ) is the only child of founding Papunya Tula artist Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi and his first wife. Martha worked with linguist John Heffernan in the Papunya Literature production and Adult Education program and in the Papunya pre-school alongside her sister Linda Tjunkaya Syddick Napaltjarri. She began painting in 2008 for Papunya Tjupi and rapidly emerged as a talented painter. Martha also enjoys making baskets and necklaces for Papunya Tjupi. She is an important elder in the Papunya community.

Streets of Papunya: The reinvention of Papunya painting, curated by Vivien Johnson, RMIT Gallery 6 May – 11 June, 2016.

People who wish to purchase works from the Papunya Tjupi Art Centre might also be interested in the exhibition Keepers of Place: new works from Papunya Tjupi, 24 May – 4 June 2016, Presented by McCulloch & McCulloch in association with Papunya Tjupi Arts.



Opening nights: Streets of Papunya & Out of the Matrix

Please join us at RMIT Gallery on Thursday 5 May from 6-8 pm when Martin Bean CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President, RMIT University, launches two new exhibitions:


FRIDAY 6 MAY – STREETS OF PAPUNYA Curator and artist talk

Featuring: Vivien Johnson and Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula

Streets of Papunya includes some of the first women painters in the desert, who joined the original Papunya art movement in the early 1980s, and the daughters of many of the ground-breaking Papunya Tula artists of the 1970s.

Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, a painter and executive member of the Papunya Tjupi Art Centre, will be travelling to Melbourne for the opening of the Streets of Papunya exhibition at RMIT Gallery, and will speak about the work in the exhibition along with eminent Papunya scholar curator Vivien Johnson in this floor talk.Free – bookings required


Thursday 12 May | 5.30-6.30pm: Panel discussion – The expanding print

Join printmakers exhibiting in Out of the Matrix for this panel discussion on ‘the expanding print’.

Chair Jazmina Cininas, panel: Joel Gailer, Bridget Hillebrand, Clare Humphries,  Andrew Tetzlaff.

One of the interesting things about artists who are print informed is that they are quite taken with media that do not appear to immediately relate, such as the moving image.

Notions of enactment and performance resonate with many artists who utilise a matrix base. A printed mode of production may bring with it a consciousness of the moment of contact between plate and paper as an event, as a ritual or even an embrace. Free: bookings essential