Irrititja Kuwarri Tjungu (Past and Present Together)


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Irrititja Kuwarri Tjungu (Past and Present Together): Fifty Years of Papunya Tula Artists by Henry F Skerritt

In 1971 a small group of Aboriginal artists from Australia’s remote Central and Western Deserts changed the face of global art history. The township of Papunya was founded in 1959 as a settlement for Aboriginal people who were relocated from their homelands. Living in cramped conditions, the community brought together people of diverse backgrounds and languages. Painting offered a way of asserting authority: of explaining who the townspeople were and where they came from amid this chaotic melange of strangers. Using ancient iconographies rarely seen by outsiders, an artistic renaissance sprang forth as artists defiantly asserted themselves against the uncertainty of colonial displacement.

Irrititja Kuwarri Tjungu (Past and Present Together) celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Papunya Tula Artists, from the very first experiments on scraps of cardboard, linoleum, and Masonite through to the epic abstract paintings that are showcased internationally today. Motivated by the artists’ desire to preserve and transmit their cultural knowledge, the movement quickly grew into a powerful medium for economic and social justice. From humble beginnings, a multimillion-dollar industry would emerge, changing the face of contemporary art and creating a powerful voice for Indigenous artists.

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