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Anmatyarre/Arrernte peoples

Australia 1929 – 1984

Wild Plum Dreaming [Wild plum Dreaming] 1971 Description: No.64
Place made: Papunya, Western Desert, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on composition board

Dimensions: 65.3 h x 36.6 w cm framed (overall) 677 h x 386 w x 45 d mm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1993
Accession No: NGA 93.182

In Wild Plum Dreaming 1971, Tim LeuraTjapaltjarri has depicted a starry night scene that celebrates the ordered and systematic nature of the universe, and the cycles of physical and spiritual life. The designs refer to the gathering of wild plums, a seasonal source of nourishment, which are indicated by the fields of red dots. The three sets of concentric circles down the middle of the painting represent fireplaces, while the sets of roundels to either side indicate campsites. The zigzag lines joining the campsites mark the paths travelled by people when collecting the bush food, while the meandering lines set at right angles to the tracks indicate windbreaks made of branches and spinifex that protect people from the cold of the night. Within the angles of the windbreaks, Tjapaltjarri has drawn white oval shapes that depict coolamon or wooden dishes full of wild plums.

The ceremonial aspect of the painting is suggested by the depiction of two decorated oval boards that lie at opposite ends of the composition. Such boards are carried by women as they dance in an initiation ceremony for boys. The boards bear designs indicating journeys from one site to another. The ritual associations of the painting are reinforced by its nearly symmetrical, rhythmical composition.

The entire scene is enclosed within a border of white dots against a black ground: the bright stars and constellations that cover the sky, from horizon to horizon, in the clear night air of central Australia.

Wally Caruana

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010