Artwork of the Week: Rockholes at Mina Mina by Dorothy Napangardi 198 x 198cm

Created in 2013 in Alice Springs

 About the Artist

Dorothy Napangardi (c.1950-2013) was the master of movement. Her dotted representations of the landscape around her country are truly captivating and have made her one of the most well-known Australian Aboriginal artists.

Dorothy had great success both in Australia and overseas, and some of her many achievements include winning the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2001, a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003 and being included in the Sydney Biennale in 2012.

About Mina Mina

For Dorothy, Mina Mina was her home. She had fond memories of visiting this Country as a child and the abundance of bush tucker available. While we might 'Google Earth' the Tanamai Desert and and not see much there, Dorothy knew the subtle variances  of the landscape, how to move from site to site, and saw a country abundant in everything she could ever possibly need.  

On a cultural level; Mina Mina Jukurrpa relates to a major Women’s Dreaming site that is sacred to Warlpiri women of the Napangardi and Napanangka skin groups. Mina Mina is to the west of  the remote community Yuendumu in the Tanami Desert. The country features salt lakes, clay pans, soakages and sand hills.

The Dreaming describes the journey of a group of women who travelled east; gathering food, collecting Ngalyipi (Snake Vine) and performing ceremonies as they travelled. The women began their journey at Mina Mina where Karlangu (digging sticks) emerged from the ground. The women took the Karlangu and travelled east creating other sites. Their long journey eventually took them beyond Warlpiri country.

The Ngalyipi vine grows up the trunks and branches of the Kurrkara (Desert Oak) trees. Ngalyipi is a sacred vine to Napangardi and Napanangka women and has many uses. It can be used as a ceremonial wrap, as a strap to carry parrajas (wooden bowls), and as a tourniquet for headaches.

Major female artists, mainly from the community of Yuendumu, have featured this important Dreaming story in their paintings. This story has many aspects associated with it – about the country, the ceremonial implements, the dance of the Ancestral women, the journey and the materials collected. Therefore the artists tend to focus on specific parts of the story for their paintings.

Dororthy Napangardi painted the country associated with the Mina Mina site – the surface of the salt lake country and sometimes the surrounding sandhill patterns. Dorothy Napangardi also shows aspects of the travels of Ancestral Women as they danced their way across country and encountered other Dreamings.

If you see the Warlpiri ladies dance during ceremony, you will see they almost 'shuffle' through the sand, never losing connection to Country - so you could say that Dorothy's staggered fine white dot-markings convey the movement of women, and also refer to elements of the surrounding landscape.  

Why we LOVE this artwork

This artwork makes a statement. It is big, subtly powerful and constantly revealing itself. Dorothy was a trailblazer, who worked towards a previously unseen abstracted method of Aboriginal art – removing all iconography in her work. 

Anyone who had the pleasure and privilege to spend time with Dorothy also speaks of a quietly charismatic woman who had a smile that could light up a room. Her beauty truly shone from the inside out, and shared to the world through her art. 

The dot work is incredibly fine and mesmerising - it is easy to lose yourself and feel the pulsating energy reverberate through you. This artwork stands alone as a spectacular piece of contemporary art, with the added bonus of a rich cultural background and story to share.

Since her passing in 2013, it has become increasingly difficult to find artworks on the primary art market by Dorothy (and collectors seem to be holding on to them, with few entering the secondary market/auction houses yet!). We are lucky enough to have five exceptional examples of her work here at Kate Owen Gallery which can be viewed online here, or in person when you visit the gallery. 

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