Naata Nunggurayi, Untitled no 20 2010, acrylic on canvas, UTS Art Collection, gift of Mr Craig Edwards through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2013

Naata Nungurrayi
Born circa 1932, Kumil rockhole, west of Pollock Hills, Western Australia. Pintupi people

Untitled (no 20) 2010

Naata Nungarrayi map


Naata Nungurrayi is from the Pintupi language group from the Western Desert. She comes from a strong artistic family and began painting in her 60s along with other women from the Western Desert. She was brought into the Papunya settlement in 1962 through the fieldwork patrols taking place at that time.

Papunya was one of the last government initiated settlements. It was a township created north of Alice Springs where Aboriginal people from all over the central and western deserts were brought into as a place to live, by the government at the time. There were over 1500 people living in Papunya with a mix of social and language groups. What we now call Aboriginal art didn’t exist in canvas form at this time.A rich, diverse variety of symbols were drawn on the ground or on people’s bodies as part of a complex structure of cultural practice.

A non-Indigenous teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, living and working in the settlement became interested in the patterns students were painting in the sand around the classroom. He invited men from the settlement to work with the students to paint a mural on the school wall as Bardon mixed the paints. From there a tide of painting began that–

captured the wonderful diversity of the cultural traditions that had been drawn together in Papunya……These arcane images represented an affirmation of culture in the face of institutionalised oppression.

—Hetti Perkins, curator and host ‘art + soul’1

This group of artists, at first men and later women became known as the Papunya Tula group, a collective that still paints and is recognised nationally and internationally.

In the early 1980s the Pintupi people living at Papunya, including Naata Nungurrayi, moved west and established their own settlement at Kintore in the heart of Pintupi country. A few years later the group had moved further west to Kiwirrkura. It was in Kintore that Naata Nungarrayi first started painting as part of a women’s group called the Haast Buff collective. Since then she has developed her own style and distinctive palette of oranges, browns, yellow, purple and white. Naata Nungurrayi paints sacred women’s sites and women’s ceremonies and as an elder from her language group she is one of the few women to have permission to paint aspects of these Dreamings.

Naata’s artworks have been entered into the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, a prestigious Award established in 1984 to recognize the important contribution made by Indigenous artists, and now one of the premier national events in the Australian Indigenous art calendar.


1 Perkins, Hetti art + soul: a journey into the world of Aboriginal art The Miegunyah Press, Carlton, Vic 2010 p.10

Have a look at the Art + Soul documentary website. Produced by the ABC, Hetti Perkins speaks to a range of Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander artists.