Works from the K.D.H. Ainsworth Collection
26 March 2014


born 1947

synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen

150.5 x 180.5 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name, size and Warlayirti Artists cat. 64/06

$25,000 - 35,000

Warlayirti Artists, Balgo Hills
Raft Artspace, Darwin, acquired 2006
The K.D.H. Ainsworth Collection, Queensland

Catalogue text

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Warlayirti Artists.

Elizabeth Nyumi was a young girl travelling with her older brothers, Brandy and Patrick Tjungurrayi, when they encountered a helicopter at Natawalu in 1957. It was the first time Nyumi had seen white men. She eventually travelled north to Balgo mission where she lived for many years before moving to Billiluna with her husband, senior law-man and painter Palmer Gordon, and children.

Born near Jupiter Well on the Canning Stock Route in her mother's country (Nyumi) close to Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia, Nyumi is a strong culture woman, dancer and advocate of the importance of traditional culture. She is an enthusiastic teacher of culture to children, ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive, also advising nurses at health clinics about traditional bush medicines.

In 1987, Nyumi started painting for Warlayirti Artists, the community run art centre at Balgo Hills and is considered to be a founding figure in the Wirrimanu women's painting movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Nyumi held her first solo exhibition Parwalla at Raft Artspace in 2001.

In this work Nyumi addresses Parwalla, the country of her childhood. Contrasting with the conventional Balgo Hills palette of blistering reds and pinks, Nyumi's creamy pastels interspersed with jewel-like forms speak of an individual aesthetic and sensual engagement with place. Parwalla depicts the abundance of Nyumi's country, the painting dense with luminous symbols representing bush foods such as Kantjilyi (bush raisin), pura (bush tomato), and minyili (seed). Women are shown as U shapes, with their wana (digging sticks) and coolamons. The many dominating white layers are referred to as kinti-kinti (close-close) which creates a rich texture that references the seeds of spinifex which grow abundantly after the rains. These seeds are white in colour and grow so thickly they obscure the ground and other plants

Selected works by Nyumi were included in On Reason and Emotion, the 2004 Biennale of Sydney. Within the catalogue which accompanied the Biennale, Hetti Perkins described Nyumi's paintings as expressing 'more than a nostalgic yearning for the past. The arrangement of formal elements in her works articulates the physical connection of desert dwellers to their country. The act of painting Tjukurrpa as an expression of knowledge and creativity reveals a blueprint for physical survival and at the same time regenerates the transcendent energy of the Tjukurrpa. Thus, Nyumi's paintings afford an unequivocal understanding of the symbiotic relationship of Aboriginal people and country.'1

1. Perkins, H., 'Elizabeth Nyumi Nungurrayi', in Carlos, I., (ed.), Biennale of Sydney 2004: On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney, 2004, p. 162