Dorothy Robinson Napangardi


Born:             c.1952

People:         Warlpiri

Language:    WarlpirI 

Area:            Pikilyi



Dorothy began painting in 1987 at the “Centre for Aboriginal Artists”. Her style is reflective of her early association with artists such as Rosie Nangala Fleming, Peggy Napurrula Poulson and Eunice and Pansy Napangardi. Her initial works were highly influenced by Eunice Napangardi in particular, as they share a number of stories, close friends and are of the same skin group. Their representations of the Bush Banana Dreaming are characteristically bright, vibrant, and full of movement.

Born in 1952, Dorothy comes from Pikilyi, which is situated approximately 400 km north west of Alice Springs. She belongs to the Warlpiri language group, and paints in the traditional manner of the Kurrawari (dreaming). Living a traditional life style until the early 1960’s when her family group walked in to the pastoralist station of Mt Doreen, Dorothy was taught about her country and the Dreamtime by her mother. Through method of story telling, song and dance.

Dorothy primarily paints the Mukati (Bush Plum) and Women’s Dreamings. Holding a senior position in the field of traditional law within the Warlpiri society, Dorothy’s works play an integral role in the preservation and communication of her Dreamings. Her father is the most senior custodian of the Pikilyi sacred site, having inherited her rights through her patrilineal line the importance of her contribution to the Aboriginal art movement is magnified. When painting Women’s Dreamings she refers to the Mina Mina site, which is a highly significant site as it is recognized as the point of origin for Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa (Women’s Dreaming) for both the Kukuja and Warlpiri. Containing two large clay pans and numerous water soakages the land is relatively fertile. It is also thought to be the place where the digging stick originated, emerging from the ground during the era of creation.

Highly patterned and intricately woven designs detail her signature style. Using more traditional colours (browns, greens, ochres contrasted against black and white)  she creates depths and perspectives, leading the eye in to highly detailed maps and journeys of her Dreamings.

A number of factors have influenced the development of her style, however it is thought that an exhibition trip to Sydney in March of 1998 marked a significant turning point in her work. Exposure to the work of other artists proved inspiring, but perhaps her return to Mina Mina was the most influential factor in her development. Having not returned since childhood, she was offered further specifics and knowledge concerning the stories of Mina Mina –  Leading to the vast dimension, incredible intricacy and extreme stylisation of her paintings.

As the mother of five daughters, Dorothy teaches her stories and Dreamings as she was taught. She is highly involved in women’s ceremonies within the Warlpiri society and currently moves between Yuendumu, Alice Springs and the birth place of her second husband, Camooweal in Queensland

Dorothy has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including: 1991 Museum’s and Art Gallerie’s Award for the best artwork in Western Media at the National Aboriginal Art Award; 1998 Northern Teritory Art Award, Alice Springs,  N.T; 1999 Highly Commended ‘16th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award’; 2001 ‘18th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award’.

Dorothy has exhibited extensively within Australia and internationally. Exhibitions include: 1991 Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs; 1998 (15th), 1999 (16th), 2001 (18th) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Darwin; 2000 Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra; 2000 ‘Songlines: Walala Japaltjarri & Dorothy Napangardi,’ Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London; 2001 Old Parliament House, Canberra; 2001  ‘Dreamtime – The Light & Dark,’ Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg, Vienna; 2001 31st Alice Art Prize, Alice Springs; In 2002 Dorothy exhibited in ‘Native Title Business – Contemporary Indigenous Art’ National Travelling Exhibition. Her success in 2001 with the ‘18th NATSIAA’ established her standing in Australian art and in 2002 /3 a major survey of her work was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, which went on to tour Asia; ‘Dancing Up Country: The Work of Dorothy Napangardi.’ Recently, Dorothy’s work has been exhibited at the National Art Gallery of Malaysia in 2003.

Collections include: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra;  National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; Art Gallery of south Australia, Adelaide; Australian Council, Sydney; Queensland Museum, Brisbane; Kaplan Levi Collection, Seattle, USA; Richard Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, USA;  Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany; Artbank, Sydney.