First Contact

The movement of Yarnangu away from their traditional life to a sedentary one was a gradual process. Yarnangu initially visited the Warburton Mission (established in 1933) out of curiosity and then by enticement—food, blankets, medicines and other domestic items.

In the early days, parents would leave their children at the mission for schooling while they went bush continuing their traditional ways.

The prolonged drought of 1937–1947 and nuclear testing during 1956-63 at Maralinga in South Australia compelled more Yarnangu (including Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara) to settle at the mission.

In the 1970s management of Warburton mission was transferred from United Aborigines Mission to the Commonwealth government. Other communities were then established as people moved away from Warburton back to their homelands in what would become the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.

Tjitji kutjarra (two boys) who turn to stone is a story from Mantamaru
Burning holes in the tartu (gum nut) so they can be painted and made into necklaces

Native Title

On 29 June 2005 the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Native title determination recognised Ngaanyatjarra people as exclusive possession Native title rights of approximately 187,000 square kilometres in the Gibson and Great Victoria Deserts

The establishment of Papulankutja (Blackstone)

The name Papulankutja comes from the Ngaanyatjarra expression ‘stare without recognising each other’ and is associated with the Tjukurrpa story of two magical ancestral goanna men who didn’t recognise each other when they reached the eastern end of the Blackstone Range (Wirtapi Wara – Long Black).

In the 1950s a mining camp was established to investigate nickel deposits in the Blackstone Ranges, east of Blackstone.  Yarnangu people began to congregate setting up wiltjas (shelters) around the mining camp for convenience and hand-outs of food and domestic goods. This camp is considered the original Blackstone settlement.

The miners were asked to leave when an indiscretion left a young Aboriginal woman pregnant. Yarnangu transported the abandoned infrastructure about 15kms to where there was an existing bore supplying water. This site became the present-day Papulankutja.

Yarnangu families who had returned to their homelands in country surrounding Papulankutja eventually moved into the settlement to access the school and store. Permanent house started to be built in the early 1980s.

Papulankutja is approximately 900kms west of Alice Springs and 1575kms north east of Perth.

Portrait of Aboriginal Artist Patricia Kani Baker Tunkin
Beautiful landscape on Northern WA

Papulankutja Artists

Like many Aboriginal art centres in Central Australia, Papulankutja Artists evolved out of the Women’s Centre where painting had been encouraged as an activity for both men and women since the mid 1980s.  With the Aboriginal art market taking off it became necessary to establish a legal framework to protect the artists and their entitilements. Papulankutja Artists was born in 2003 and a year later registered as an Aboriginal Corporation with the members governing the art centre. After five year struggling to find a home Papulankutja Artists moved into a purpose built art centre in 2009.

The art centre also works with artists in Mantamaru (Jameson), a community 75kms to the west.

Papulankutja Artists is a community-based, not-for-profit Aboriginal Corporation governed by a committee of elected members.

Lance Peck working on a printmaking sugarlift plate
Angilyiya and her granddaughter Larissa viewing the Blackstone Cultural collection

Community-based enterprise

Papulankutja Artists is a small community-based enterprise focusing on providing a means for the Ngaanyatjarra people of Papulankutja to earn an income. The art centre facilitates visual art production in various mediums, professional development and employment for arts workers. The artworks sold through Papulankutja Artists are authentic having been produced by Aboriginal artists living in their country.

The corporation is managed by a member elected board of directors who are responsible for ensuring good governance and business practices are adhered to.

In return for a commission on sales the art centre is responsible for marketing, generating sales, skills training, financial management, applying for grants to support additional activities, developing alternative means to earn income for our members and investing in growth.

Our return to the community includes financial benefits, community wellbeing and divergence activities away from harmful abuse.

After some digging Anawari pulls the tinka (sand goaana) from its burrow
Jennifer Mintiyi Connelly (Ward)

Sharing stories

As well as their paintings Papulankutja Artists are known for their innovative fibre work and carvings from local wood which are called punu. In 2005 a group of women from Papulankutja won the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award with a large woven Toyota called ‘Toyota Dreaming’ as it was the dream of everyone in Papulankutja to own a Toyota.

The artists assist in the maintenance of Ngaanyatjarra culture, law, and storytelling practices which are still strong across the Lands. They share their traditions through painting Tjukurrpa or Dreamtime stories about their connection to country and ancestors. These stories include the well-known Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters story), Wati Kutjarra (Two Goanna Men story for Papulankutja), Tjitji kutjarra (Two Boys story for Mantamaru).

Mask Group 13
Collecting grass seed to evaluate the health of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands