Dorothy Napangardi

Dorothy Napangardi

Date of Birth: c. 1952  d.2015

Region: Pikilyi, NT

Language: Warlpiri

Dorothy was born in the Mina Mina area of the Tanami Desert.  She began painting in 1987 at the “Centre for Aboriginal Artists”. Her style is reflective of her early association with artists such as Rosie Nangala Fleming, Peggy Napurrula Poulson and Eunice and Pansy Napangardi. Her initial works were highly influenced by Eunice Napangardi in particular, as they share a number of stories, close friends and are of the same skin group. Their representations of the Bush Banana Dreaming are characteristically bright, vibrant, and full of movement.

 Born in 1952, Dorothy came from Pikilyi, which is situated approximately 400 km north west of Alice Springs. She belonged to the Warlpiri language group, and painted in the traditional manner of the Kurrawari (dreaming). Living a traditional life style until the early 1960’s when her family group walked in to the pastoralist station of Mt Doreen, Dorothy was taught about her country and the Dreamtime by her mother using story telling, song and dance.

Dorothy primarily painted the Mukati (Bush Plum) and Women’s Dreamings. Holding a senior position in the field of traditional law within the Warlpiri society, Dorothy’s works played an integral role in the preservation and communication of her Dreamings. Her father was the most senior custodian of the Pikilyi sacred site, so having inherited her rights through her patrilineal line, the importance of her contribution to the Aboriginal art movement is magnified. When painting Women’s Dreamings she referred to the Mina Mina site, which is a highly significant site as it is recognized as the point of origin for Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa (Women’s Dreaming) for both the Kukuja and Warlpiri. Containing two large clay pans and numerous water soakages the land is relatively fertile. It was also thought to be the place where the digging stick originated, emerging from the ground during the era of creation.

Highly patterned and intricately woven designs detail her signature style. Using more traditional colours (browns, greens, ochres contrasted against black and white) she created depths and perspectives, leading the eye in to highly detailed maps and journeys of her Dreamings.

A number of factors have influenced the development of her style; however it is thought that an exhibition trip to Sydney in March of 1998 marked a significant turning point in her work. Exposure to the work of other artists proved inspiring, but perhaps her return to Mina Mina was the most influential factor in her development. Having not returned since childhood, she was offered further specifics and knowledge concerning the stories of Mina Mina – Leading to the vast dimension, incredible intricacy and extreme stylisation of her paintings.

As the mother of five daughters, Dorothy taught her stories and Dreamings as she was taught. She was highly involved in women’s ceremonies within the Warlpiri society and currently moved between Yuendumu, Alice Springs and the birth place of her second husband, Camooweal in Queensland.

In 2001 Dorothy won first prize at the '18th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award', Darwin, Australia.

Tragically Dorothy passed away in June 2013. Her artwork lives on as some of the most significant work in contemporary Indigenous art.