Kumantje Jagamara OAM (b.c.1946-2020) was one of the foremost champions of the Western Desert painting movement and a deeply respected Warlpiri/Luritja Elder and senior cultural leader of the broader Papunya community. He was a dynamic innovator of Papunya’s second wave of painters known for creating evocative new forms to portray his ancestral inheritance.
In both life and art, Kumantje held true to his jukurrpa: his Warlpiri law, its interconnected cultural knowledge system and dreamings. His Country, Pikilyi, is an important ceremonial site at the intersection of a number of the dreamings represented in his works — Possum, Snake, Two Kangaroos, Flying Ant and Yam — alongside lightning, rain, shields and sacred sites.
Kangaroo Story at Wantapi 1988 (illustrated) on display in the Australian Art Collection at the Queensland Art Gallery was painted a year before Kangaroo and Rain Dreaming 1989 (illustrated) in which the central area also represents Wantapi, west of Mt Singleton.
The tracks in Kangaroo Story at Wantapi show an old kangaroo sitting looking at the kangaroo ‘milk guts’ which are depicted by the central circle. The roundels are the camps of the kangaroo ancestors whose spears, shields and stone implements are featured. The central section of the work, the large central circle, the smaller ones and the kangaroo tracks are designs used during the men’s ceremonies associated with the site of Wantampi, close to Mt Singleton. In each corner of the painting the artist has shown the Wild Fig Dreaming. The trees on which this fruit is found grow in the hills1.
Kumantje Jagamara ‘Kangaroo Story at Wantapi’
Kangaroo Story at Wantapi is a classic work by Kumantje Jagamara, with great energy being generated through an intense field of almost camoflage pattern-like field of differently coloured dotted blocks packed against each other, jostling for attention across the picture plane.
On top of this background the narratives associated with the Kangaroo Story unfold through an arrangement of objects and icons used in both the narrative and the ceremonies commemorating and continuing this Dreaming. All of these elements are married in a near-perfect symetry prized by artists from the Luritja, Warlpiri and Anmatyerre school or style of painting within the Western Desert movement.
1 Artist Statement, Papunya Tula Artists certificate
Kumantje Jagamara ‘Kangaroo and Rain Dreaming’
Kangaroo Story at Wantapi can be viewed as part of the Gallery’s Australian art display in Galleries 10, 11, 12 & 13 (Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries) Queensland Art Gallery.
Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.
It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs on the QAGOMA Blog are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.