Stunning Major Work By Makinti Napanangka

Gallery Director Ian Plunkett introduces this major work by artist Makinti Napanangka.

This particular painting is one we've had for quite a few years. We haven't had it on general display simply because we realized the importance of it. It was a work that we really wanted to hang on to.

It's a major painting by Makinti Napanangka, who is referred to posthumously as Kumentje. She is recognized as one of the greats. She's passed now, but she was a senior Pintupi woman from around the Lake Mackay region in the Northern Territory on the West Australian border.

Makinti Napanangka
Makinti Napanangka  |  Lupulnga | Jap 000690   

It's thought she was born round about 1922, but it could have been as late as 1930. No one knows for sure. She was very much a recognized artist during her lifetime. She went on to win the Telstra Award, the overall general prize by Telstra, which is a $50,000 award. At the time was the largest Indigenous art prize in the country. This artist has works in the National Gallery and state gallery collections.

In terms of scale, you very rarely see paintings of this size. It's over 2.4 metres long by1.5 metres high. It is a very typical painting by this artist and it represents the Two Women Dreaming and the hair string story, which is from the region near Lake Mackay. It's a traditional women's site though there is a men's area associated with it as well.

The lines in the painting, on one level, represent the sand hills that stretch across the country. On another level, they also represent the hair string story. Now the hair string is about women wearing belts made from human hair during ceremonial dances. These hair belts are worn above the waist and they move around when the women are dancing. Sometimes they have emu feathers attached to the end of them.
The belts are supposed to increase the attraction of the women. These belts are used during specific ceremonies. Sometimes men can wear them as well.

This is a particular story to do with two Ancestor women travelling through this country. It's part of a dance cycle. The groupings of circles interspersed towards the centre of the painting represent waterholes that are in and around the artist's country.

This painting is pretty much as you would see if you're flying over the country. The only difference is the waterholes. You wouldn't see them as they are actually underground. The artist has shown them in relief so that you can see where they are. It's almost like a map for finding the water as well in this important ceremonial site.

We kept this painting in our stock room. We didn't even have it on our website. We knew it was something really important, a major work by a major artist. We really wanted to hang on to it for as long as we could. Now we feel, with her passing nearly a decade ago, that now is an appropriate time to bring it out for people to see it and enjoy it and appreciate it for what it is.

In terms of price point, art from such a major award winning artist isn't cheap. We feel it still represents great value for an artist who is really on the same sort of wavelength and importance, I believe as Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Kathleen Petyarre and other major women artists. But the price point is less than works from those women. I think this is why it represents great value.

We're just proud to have it in our collection. We knew its importance as soon as we saw it. We love the colour. We love it's golden glow. We love her innate style and sense of movement. This is one of the best examples of her work that I've seen. So we're lucky to have this work here. I hope people take the chance to have a look at it. It is stunning.