The Early Years
Dorothy Napangardi was born at the site of Mina Mina, to the north of Lake MacKay near the border of Northern Territory and Western Australia. Like many aboriginal people from the bush, there is no document that shows their date of birth. Although Dorothy Napangardi has been shown to be born in c1956, those close to her question this, as talks with Dorothy about her early years, place the date of birth being c1950.
Dorothy spent her early childhood years, living a traditional lifestyle. After many private conversations between Dorothy and her friend Roslyn Premont, it is estimated that she was about seven or eight years old when her family first encountered a white person, a patrol officer. After much pressure to abandon their way of life and to leave their ancestral country, Napangardi and her family were forcibly relocated to what was then the relatively new Warlpiri settlement of Yuendumu, hundreds of kilometres south-east of Mina Mina. It was at this time that they were also give ”whitefella” names.
Dorothy Napangardi and daughters © Gallery Gondwana
As a child, Dorothy had been promised in marriage to an old man, Jampijinpa, to whom she had four daughters, Julie Nangala, Sabrina Nangala, Maria Nangala and Dolores (aka Delores) Nangala. They moved to Alice Springs and she eventually separated with him on account of his drinking. In Alice Springs she became involved in the local Baptist Church, a commitment that would last a lifetime. Dorothy remarried some time later (c1987-88), and gave birth to her youngest daughter, Annette Nangala.
Whist living in Mina Mina, Dorothy had begun receiving instruction from her grandfather on the Karnta-kurlangu/Kana-kurlangu Jukurrpa (Women’s or Digging Sticks Dreaming). This was as a matter of inheritance, although as a small child Dorothy was not permitted to re-create its visual imagery. These Jukurrpa would later become the principal subject matter of her most celebrated artworks.
‘When I paint,” Dorothy said, ”I think of those old days, as a happy little girl knowing my grandfather’s Dreaming.” It is those two closely interconnected Dreamings that constituted Dorothy’s principal subject matter.
It was at the Centre for Aboriginal Artists and Craftsmen in Alice Springs in 1987 that Dorothy first met Roslyn Premont, who was to become not only a crucial figure in her artistic development, but also a close friend. Dorothy was part of a small group of Warlpiri women living in Alice Springs who had just completed a course at IAD (Institute for Aboriginal Development), where they were given boards and paint.
When Roslyn established Gallery Gondwana in Todd Mall, Alice Springs in 1990, the long-term working relationship and friendship between Dorothy and Roslyn gathered momentum. Their business collaboration continued until 2011, then following an injury, Roslyn closed her galleries. There is a general consensus that Dorothy Napangardi’s finest works were created during the years that the two women worked together. They maintained a close friendship and had plans for other ventures and holidays together, until the tragic accident and death of Dorothy Napangardi in June 2013.
Dorothy and Roslyn discussing the selection of Dorothy's work to appear on fabric at the 50th Edition of the Ermenegildo Zegna Wool Tropies event
01 August - 31 December 2018
In addition to her internationally acclaimed career in paintings, Dorothy also extended her artistic career into the field of etching and print making… which saw her create a stunning series of limited edition prints for print makers including Crown Point Press (Dena Schuckit), Northern Editions…
01 January 2018 - 31 December 2019
We are excited to be planning our series of online exhibitions over the next 12 months… after the thought provoking “Climate Change in The Pacific” by Fiji’s leading multi-media artist Rusiate Lali, other exhibitions in the pipeline cover a varied range of topics that include some of our key…
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