Ningura Napurrula

Ningura Napurrula

Date of Birth: c. 1938 - 2013
Region: Kintore, Lake Mackay, Western Desert
Language: Pintupi

Ningura Napurrula Gibson was born circa. 1938 at Waltuka in Western Australia, south of the modern Kiwirrkurra community. Ningura moved to Papunya in the early days of the settlement with her husband Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, (now deceased). Her husband was a highly respected Pintupi elder who held significant knowledge of his country’s dreaming stories.

In 1996 Ningura was part of a group of elderly women from Kintore and Kiwirrkurra who began painting for Papunya Tula Artists in their own right. Characteristic of her work is a strong dynamism, rich with linear design compositions created with heavy layers of acrylic paint.

During the early years of the aboriginal painting movement (seventies and early eighties) painting in a fine art context was an almost exclusively male prerogative. Women began painting in the eighties throughout the desert, but many Pintupi women did not begin painting in earnest until the mid nineties. The women of Kintore, Kiwirrkurra and Haast’s Bluff have since received considerable recognition for their fresh painting styles. A common technique involves the use of a dark ground overlaid by a field of thick white dots in which the design or “kuruwarri” emerges from the ground as if it were etched into the field of dots, while the reverse is actually the case, the dots create the design in relief in the negative space of the ground.

Ningura’s paintings often depict designs associated with women’s ceremonies at the rockhole and soakage water source of Ngaminya, just to the southwest of the contemporary community of Kiwirrkurra. The roundels in her work depict rockholes and campsites, with the arcs representing the sandhills surrounding the area. The women would often gather the edible berries known as kampurarrpa, or desert raisins, from small shrubs in the surrounding area. Her designs include symbols representing women dancing and also include patterns used in ceremonial body painting. Concentric circles represent the ceremonial sites connected to songlines or pathways which relate to ancestral movements across the land.

Ningura Napurrula participated in an initial Papunya Tula Artists exhibition in 1996 and her work was featured in several group shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin in 1999. She had her first solo exhibition with William Mora Aboriginal Art in 2000, and participated in the impressive Kintore Women’s Painting for the Papunya Tula retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Ningura passed away in November 2013, leaving behind some of the most distinctive and collectable work from the Western Desert movement.

The Harold Mitchell Foundation together with the Australia Council commissioned the work of eight important Australian indigenous artists Their artwork was to feature in the permanent collection of Europe’s most important public museum, the Musee du Quai Branly, Paris. The artists chosen included Ningura Napurrula (Papunya Tula), Paddy Bedford (Warmun), John Mawurndjul (Arnhem Land), Lena Nyadbi (Warmun), Micahel Riley (urban), Judy Watson (urban), Tommy Watson (Papunya), and Gulumbu Yunupingu (Yirrkala). Ningura Napurrula’s signature work in black and white motive is superimposed eternally on the ceiling of Jean Nouvel’s Paris museum building “Musee du Quai Branly” for the future generations to see.