Beyond Mina Mina - Bilby Dreaming (My Father's Country), 2006
Karntakurlangu is one of the most extensive and significant women’s Jukurrpa (dreaming) belonging to the Warlpiri. The works by Dorothy Napangardi depict the ceremonial site of origin for the Jukurrpa, known as Mina Mina, the artist’s custodial country, located near Lake Mackay in the Tanami Desert, north of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory of Australia.
During the creation era ancestral women of the Napangardi and Napanangka sub-section groups (aunt/niece relationship, in which knowledge is passed from one generation to another) gathered to perform the ceremonies and take-up ceremonial digging sticks (Karlangu) that had emerged from the ground. A large stand of Desert Oaks (Allocasuarina decaisneana) now grow where these digging sticks emerged from the ground. 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.
The Jukurrpa women preceded east transiting the vast expanse of Warlpiri tribal land, performing rituals of song and dance, creating the environment as it is today. As each reconnects both individually and together with their place the travelling tracks converge and coalesce. It is here that we find the key to Warlpiri art - it is the journey that encompasses the creation and thereafter the renewal of the country and ones connection to the land.
‘Beyond Mina Mina’ refers to the claypans west of Mina Mina, Dorothy’s actual conception site, the dreaming of which was passed onto Dorothy by her father, Paddy Lewis, during the journey they shared back to their ancestral lands. As they were unable to reach this particular site in person, Paddy passed this dreaming onto his daughter through painting it on canvas for her. This site is especially connected to the Bilby.
My painting is about my country, my father, my aunties, their aunties.
We have been walking that country around Mina Mina long time — plenty stories for that place.
My father walked from Mina Mina through sandhill country to Pirlinyanu — my daughter Julie Nangala’s country from her father’s side. There is good water there. It never dries up. You got to know and care for country.
This journey made to now from the beginning …long long time …is what I sing and what I paint.
There are many songs that all us that share this country have — my sisters — all us Napangardi dance this country with our father’s sisters, Napanangka.
I love to go hunting — walking my country — looking, listening — this makes me happy to paint.
Sitting down painting and singing, remembering — this brings me close to country. I am always thinking about painting.
I am happy that people like my work.
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.