27 Sep 2019 — 16 Nov 2019



Tues-Sat 10am-5pm


Ngangkari provide traditional healing treatments and practices of the mind, body and spirit.


Ngangkari Tjukurpa (Traditional Healer Tjukurpa), 2013
[Ngankari Punu (hollow log) and Kurri Ngaltajarra (poor husband)]
native grasses (minarri), aviary mesh, acrylic wool, found quilted fabric, sheep wool, plastic zipper, raffia, emu feathers
135 x 35 cm diameter
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds donated by Nelson Meers Foundation 2013

This sculpture is a hollowed out trunk of the river red gum tree and it tells the Tjukurpa story of a man and his two wives. The man is stuck inside the tree. The tree closed over him and trapped him inside. He yelled out to his two wives and told them, ‘I am stuck inside this tree. I can’t get out. You will have to fend for yourselves now.

You will have to go and find your own meat. I can’t look after you anymore, because I am stuck inside this tree.’ The two wives tried to pull him out but couldn’t. They cried for him. They asked him, ‘Dear husband, can we get you anything? How can we help you?’ But he said, ‘No, I can’t eat and I can’t drink. I can’t move around. I am stuck tight inside.’

But the tree could still travel around the country. Shuffling and shaking and jumping the tree moved around, but the man he was stuck and he couldn’t do anything. Some people would see this tree moving in the country and they would think ‘Hey! What did I see? Was that tree really moving?’

The man was stuck in that tree for a long time, until a Ngangkari traditional healer came to his rescue. The Ngangkari threw a powerful mapanpa tool at the trunk and split it open. The man fell forward out of the tree, flat onto the ground. He was thin, down to skin and bone, after so long without food and water.

This is a very old story, which was told to children in the days before television. We were told stories like this by our grandmothers and grandfathers, just before we dropped off to sleep. This is one of our special stories. It is a very, very old story.

This work is exhibited alongside the newly commissioned virtual reality work based on this Tjukurpa story, exploring the meanings of entrapment.

On loan from Museum of Contemporary Art

Artist Biography

Naomi Kantjuriny

Naomi Kantjuriny (b. 1944) is a prolific painter who has been working at Tjala Arts (formerly Minymaku) Arts since 2001. An excellent hunter, basket maker and wood carver, Naomi took to painting with remarkable ease. She is recognized for her knowledge of the Tjukurpa stories of the area and whilst she is a new and emerging artist, her technique is well developed. Naomi’s mother’s Dreaming is Malu or kangaroo. Naomi is also a Ngangkari – traditional healer. Ngangkari provide traditional healing treatments and practices of the mind, body and spirit. They are exactly like Western doctors and equal to doctors in their effectiveness for the Aboriginal people of her region.

Ilawanti Ken

Ilawanti Ken is a senior Pitjantjatjara woman whose fibre work is well known for its flamboyant design, colour and texture, with her consistently producing unique and highly collectible pieces. She uses the nest shape and bird designs to reflect upon community life and values of looking after family and keeping them safe from harm.

Ilawanti has exhibited widely and is represented in major national collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia with the collaborative work Minyma punu kungkarangkalpa and the Art Gallery of South Australia with Paarpakani. Ilawanti was a finalist in the 2017 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.