Embassy Tapestry Collection

Untitled (detail from Kiwirrkurra Women’s Painting)

This tapestry is the third to be funded through an initiative of the Tapestry Foundation of Australia, which aims to place Australian-designed and made tapestries in selected overseas missions. Under this program, tapestries are loaned from the Tapestry Foundation of Australia's permanent collection to an embassy and may on occasion be exchanged between embassies. The Foundation believes that the Embassy Tapestries project is beneficial to international trade, diplomatic relationships, and the promotion of the Workshop in overseas markets.

The Embassy Collection tapestries are based on designs by indigenous Australian artists, and the intention with each tapestry has been to select iconic and unique designs. The images are intended to be distinctly Australian, but accessible to international audiences.

Previous tapestries in this series include Daisy Andrew'sLumpu Lumpu Country, which hangs in the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, and Pedro Wonaeamirri'sPwoja Pukumani Body Paint Design, which hangs in the Australian Embassy in Beijing.

The tapestry now hangs in the foyer of the new Australian Chancellery in New Dehli. The final artwork was selected from a variety suggested by the Workshop by the High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy AO.

The Artist:

The Western Desert (Pintupi/ Naami/ Ngaatjatjarra) artists traditionally occupied the Western Desert region and mostly now live at Kintore and Kiwirrkurra close to the Northern Territory and West Australian borders.

The design is a detail from the original painting which was painted by group of seventeen women from the Kiwirrkurra community in November 1999. The painting was produced for an art auction to raise money for dialysis treatment for those affected by kidney disease in communities in the Western Desert.

As with many indigenous works, the piece depicts locations, events, and relates a narrative, depicting:

designs associated with the rockhole and soakage water site of Marrapinti, west of the Kiwirrkurra community. A large group of women camped at this site.....While at the site the women made nose bones...which are worn through a hole made in the nose web..... The women later continued their travels......as they travelled they gathered edible berries known as ‘kamurarrpa' or bush raisin, which they ground into a paste to form a type of damper. [1]

The detail selected for interpretation was painted by Nanyuma Napangati, who was assisted by Polly Brown Nangala. Napangati is of the Pintupi language group. Born c.1944, she is the sister of Charlie Tjapangati and is also related to Pinta Pinta Tjanpanangka and Kanya Tjapangati. She is a senior artist who has participated in exhibitions in capital cities across Australia and in 2005 her work was exhibited in the USA as part of a group exhibition. Her work is held by the AGNSW and Artbank.

Napangati is represented by the Papunya Tula Artists, an organisation that derives its name from a settlement 240km north-west of Alice Springs. Papunya Tula is entirely owned and directed by Aboriginal people from the area, and represents about 120 local artists, predominantly from the Pintupi and Luritja people.

Much of the Papunya Tula painting style derives directly from the artists' knowledge of traditional body and sand painting associated with ceremony.

Biographical and Papunya Tula information sourced from Birrung Gallery - World Vision Australia, and Papunya Artists Pty Ltd.

This Tapestry:

The original painting is very large, and belongs to private owners in Sydney. As the Workshop was not able to borrow the original, the project leader, Cheryl Thornton, went to Sydney to see the original painting. Careful colour matching with our wool colour samples and pantone colour cards were made. Also comprehensive photographs were taken by a professional photographer for us to use as reference for the tapestry.

The red / brown ground that the painting was painted on is evident throughout the painting and is an important aspect of the tapestry. The palette is limited with subtle accidental variations within each colour.

Unlike some indigenous artists, Napangati's marks in the form of dots are not clear separate dots but are linked by dragging her brush from one dot to the next. These marks in themselves are a challenge for interpretation in tapestry.


[1] Western Desert Dialysis Appeal Art Auction, first published inPapunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, 2000. p158This tapestry was commissioned by the Tapestry Foundation of Australia. It is on loan to the Australian Embassy, New Delhi.