Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi

Jul 2014

Lily Hargreaves NungarrayiWarlpiri woman and renowned artist, Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi was born circa 1930 in her country near Jilla, or Chilla Well, in the great Tanami Desert, Central Australia.

Nungarrayi didn’t come into contact with Kardiya (the Warlpiri word for non-Aboriginal people) often as a child, as she walked with her family over vast tracks of her peoples Warlpiri country. The Warlpiri would gather bush fruit and vegetables. Hunt, cook and eat small game. Drink from rock holes and sleep under the stars. It was in this time that Nungarrayi learnt of Jukurrpa (The Dreaming) through ceremony, iconography and oral narratives. Jukurrpa is grounded in the earth. It is both their sacred religion, and their law. Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi’s extensive knowledge of, and belief in Jukurrpa is embedded in her contemporary artworks, inseparable and extraordinary. Her work is skilful, energetic, bold, bright, connected, honest and unwavering.

Nungarrayi still walks almost everywhere, she is still self-sufficient, cares for many and is a well-respected role model for her people, as well as for Kardiya (non-Aboriginal people). Nungarrayi’s time is devoted to the maintenance and intergenerational transmission of Warlpiri culture and language, she paints daily.

Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi, although largely unheralded, has achieved extraordinary things. Her work is held in a number of major collections, and has been widely exhibited both nationally and internationally. Last month saw Nungarrayi’s work purchased by Art Bank from the critically acclaimed exhibition Jinjilngali, Kurlukuku, Minpiya, held at the Vivian Anderson Gallery in Melbourne. Currently Nungarrayi is painting a commissioned piece which was sold at the Masterpiece Art Fair held at Chelsea (London); and her work can be seen at the NATSIAA, or Telstra Art Awards in Darwin, showing as a finalist. September will see Nungarrayi’s work exhibited in a solo show at the Suzanne O’Connell Gallery in Brisbane.

Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi at half her age would be considered dynamic! A brilliant and prolific artist, a purveyor of her culture, her work oozes life and meaning. Nungarrayi contributes much to the richness of this land, and we are fortunate to have her and her indelible legacy.

Above Right Image Source: Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi, 2012, The Dance, Lajamanu.
Photograph courtesy of Louisa Erglis, Warnayaka Arts Coordinator, Lajamanu.

Featured Image Source: Lily Hargreaves Nungarrayi, 2013, Wardilyka Jukurrpa (Bush Turkey, Ardeotis Australis Dreaming) synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 200 x 300cm. © the artist, courtesy of Warnayaka Art Centre Lajamanu.