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Historic drawing exhibition to share Warlpiri stories

By Leanne Miles

Yawaki (Bush Plum) Dreaming, 2011, Jerry Jangala Patrick Lajamanu Warlpiri Drawings Collection, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Yawaki (Bush Plum) Dreaming, 2011, Jerry Jangala Patrick Lajamanu Warlpiri Drawings Collection, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

History will be made when Warlpiri men from Central Australia create a sand drawing as part of a new exhibition that brings drawings created more than six decades ago back to the Northern Territory.

“Warlpiri Drawings” features more than 100 works created by Warlpiri people from Lajamanu and Yuendumu during the 1950s and beyond. The exhibition opens at the Charles Darwin University Art Gallery this week.

Presented by the National Museum of Australia and curated by Australian National University’s Dr Melinda Hinkson, the exhibition includes drawings of country and early settlement architecture, as well as photographs and objects from 1953 to 2013.

The CDU Art Gallery has worked in partnership with the National Museum of Australia to bring the exhibition to the Northern Territory, close to where the drawings were created, to share the stories and history that the pieces represent.

“The exhibition explores how drawing has been used by Warlpiri to make sense of six decades of monumental change, to picture life in the present and look towards the future,” Dr Hinkson said.

Dr Hinkson, who has been working with Warlpiri artists since the mid-’90s, said she became captivated by the drawings when she found them archived at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra in 2000. The exhibition is the culmination of a three-year research project conducted in close collaboration with Warlpiri people at Yuendumu and Lajamanu.

“When I returned copies of the drawings to the communities in 2011 people were surprised. They had no idea these drawings existed, and they looked very different to the paintings Warlpiri make today,” she said. “During my research, other important collections of drawings were found and new drawings were made. The works on display reveal the remarkable resilience of Warlpiri people, the transformations they have lived through and the vital role of image making in dealing with change.”

A highlight of the exhibition will be the creation of a sand drawing that depicts a special rain place, Kurlpulurnu, by Jerry Jangala Patrick and his son Steven Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick.

“Kurlpulurnu was lost for several decades, but has been recently rediscovered,” Dr Hinkson said. “There is a wonderful parallel between the rediscovery of the drawings after 40 years of being dormant in the archive and the rediscovery of this cherished place.”

The exhibition will run from 6 August to 23 October in the CDU Chancellery, Building Orange 12.1.02, Casuarina campus. Gallery opening hours are 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday. A public floor talk will be conducted by Jerry Jangala Patrick, Steven Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick and Dr Hinkson at 2.30pm on Thursday 6 August. For further information contact E: artgallery@cdu.edu.au, P: 8946 6621 or visit W: cdu.edu.au/artgallery

This exhibition is drawn from the collections of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, in partnership with the National Museum of Australia, the Australian National University, and Warlpiri communities of Yuendumu and Lajamanu.