In this beautiful and exquisite work portraying her Mina Mina, Dorothy Napangardi has created a striking check-like design using white and red on a black background. This painting can be read like a map, through which the women move; across the terrain, around the soakages of Mina Mina and its crustations of salt; through the spinifex clumps and over the sandhills.
This major women’s ceremonial site is the artist’s custodial country located near Lake Mackay in the Tanami Desert, north of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory of Australia. It was during the Jukurrpa Ancestral women of the Napangardi and Napanangka sub-section groups (aunt / niece relationship, in which knowledge is passed from one to the other) gathered to collect ceremonial digging sticks (Karlangu) that had emerged from the ground. They then proceeded east, performing rituals of song and dance, to the place known as Jankinyi. A large belt of trees (Allocasuarina decaisneana) now stand where these digging sticks once were.
Topographically, the sacred site of Mina Mina is made up of two enormous soakage areas that, rarely filled with water, exist as clay-pans. As water soaks into the ground small areas of earth dry out and lift at the edges becoming delineated by salt. In this striking design of white dotting Dorothy depicts the crustations of salt stretching infinitely onward, etched with the tracks of the women as their paths stretch on, crossing and merging, telling their stories.
Karntakurlangu literally translates from Warlpiri language into ‘Belonging to Women’. The site depicted is Mina Mina, a sacred women’s site which is located on the far west border of the Northern Territory, near the Western Australian border, close to the great salt lake of Lake MacKay. It comprises of a large claypan that fills with water after rain surrounded by large desert oak trees.
During the Dreaming women of the Napangardi (Dorothy’s ‘skin’ name) and Napanangka (aunties for the Napangardi kinship) sang and danced this country into existence. This is how traditional knowledge is passed on – from auntie (father’s sisters) to niece.
One of the leading artists of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement, Napangardi’s work is highly sought after by both collectors and curators worldwide. Her paintings and prints have been widely exhibited and are in all national collections within Australia and in major collections worldwide including most recently the MET, New York. Napangardi had the honour of being the 2nd indigenous artist to be given a solo survey exhibition at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), Sydney that traced 11 years of her painting career in 1991.