Harry Tjutjuna

<strong>Harry Tjutjuna</strong><br/>Born c.1928/1932, Walytjatjara, near Mt Davies, SA <br/>Language group: Pitjantjatjara <br/><br/><i>Minyma mingkari muni wati malu</i> (Marsupial mouse women & red kangaroo men)2005<br/>Acrylic on linen, 60 x 90cm <br/>Acquired for the CDU Art Collection, 2006 – CDU1288<br/>Image © the artist & courtesy Ernabella Arts Inc & Ninuku Arts

Harry Tjutjuna is a senior law man and ngangkari (traditional healer).  He was born in the bush near Mount Davies, in the far north-west corner of South Australia, close to the Western Australia and Northern Territory borders. In his youth, he moved to Ernabella and was educated at the Mission School. As a young adult, Tjutjuna played an active role in supporting the mission settlement, working on bore sinking, fencing, gardening and running sheep. In later life, he returned to the far north-west with his family, living in and around Wingellina (WA) and Pipalyatjara on the Anangu-Pitjantjatjara-Yankunytjatjara Lands. 

In late 2005, along with a small group of other senior men and women, Tjutjuna began painting for Ernabella Inc – the oldest Indigenous art centre in Australia, established in 1948. With Pantjiti Lionel, Ungakini Tjangala and Dickie Mininytiri, he introduced tjukurrpa subject matter and a new painterly language to the art centre – distinct from secular “Ernabella school” walka that characterised the art centre’s earliest productions. Their art inspired existing artists and a new generation of younger painters to experiment in new subject matter, techniques and styles. Today, Tjutjuna is represented by Ninuku Arts, which services communities in Kalka and Pipalyatjara, SA.

Tjutjuna’s art focuses on several themes: kangaroo men and marsupial mouse women (totemic Creation beings associated with his ngura or country); milpatjunanyi (traditional ways of telling stories in the sand) and Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming – the Pleiades constellation Creation story). Most recently his work has taken an autobiographical spin, with his striking Wanka Tjukurrpa  (Spider man) series, referring symbolically to his role as ngangkari (spider webs are used to treat skin injuries and abrasions), his ngura and the ancestral creatures associated with it.

In this painting, acquired for the University in 2006, a dense field of lively and modulating crimson, orange and white dots captures the interaction between abstractly rendered ancestral beings, both male and female. Their journeys and encounters – marked out as meandering pathways to unnamed sites – punctuate the desert landscape and charge it as a place of mystery and encoded meaning. In this work’s composition and execution, there are echoes of narrative designs originally drawn in the sand and symbolic motifs first incised or painted on wooden objects for ceremonial purposes.

Harry Tjutjuna has exhibited in group shows since 2005, holding his first solo exhibition in Darwin in 2007. His work is represented in major state and regional public galleries, corporate and significant private collections in Australia, as well other collections and public institutions abroad. 


Anita Angel, Curator CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
30 June 2011

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