Songlines of the Western Desert Project

Alive with the Dreaming!

brings together Aboriginal organisations and community leaders from the Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples with researchers interested in art history, visual anthropology,rock art, archaeology and environmental history from the ANU, NMA and UNE.


Warning: this site contains  images of some Aboriginal people who have passed away. Their families requested their photos remain out of respect for their contribution to the Project.


David Miller Chairperson, Pepai Carroll , Sammy Lyons, Hector Burton, Renita Stanley, Kanakiya Tjanyari,Mary Pan, Marita Baker, Kanytjupai, Maringka Burton, Ankaliya Nelson, Molly Miller

Ananguku Arts Board 2010-11

David Miller Chairperson, Pepai Carroll , Sammy Lyons, Hector Burton,
Renita Stanley, Kanakiya Tjanyari,Mary Pan, Marita Baker, Kanytjupai , Maringka Burton,
Ankaliya Nelson, Molly Miller

Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Corporation is a not for profit organisation incorporated under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006. Ananguku Arts is the peak body for Indigenous visual arts and cultural maintenance on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands and in regional South Australia. The organisation delivers services to 460 Indigenous artists and nine Indigenous art centres in South Australia. These include the seven art centres of Ninuku Arts, Tjungu Palya, Tjala Arts, Ernabella Arts, Kaltjiti Arts and Crafts, Mimili Maku and Iwantja Arts and Crafts, all of whom are participating in this project.

Milyika Carroll, Director of Anangku Arts, Ernabella, SA

Milyika Carroll 

Milyika is on the Board of Ernabella Arts and an advisor to many community and government organisations. She is a highly accomplished batik, painting and ceramics artist.

"Ka nyura kulu kulinma nganampa Arts iriti ngarantja munu kuwari kutu panya Arts nyanga paluru ngarala ngaraku titutjara. Nganampa tjitji tjutaku kulu ngapartji kanyintjaku. Work nyanga wiru mulapa!
We would like everyone to recognize that our Arts have been established for a long time and are now standing strong and proud to continue into the future. We have built up a strong business for our children to care for in their turn. This is very good work! "


Senior Consultant Ngintaka Songline Traditional Owner, Aran'nga

 Kunmanara A.T. Ngangkari (healer), Senior Songman and  Inma dancer.

 (deceased May 2015) Greatly missed by family, friends and colleagues.

Kunmanara was lead songman on  the Ngintaka Inma recorded at Angatja in 1994 with forty traditional singers. He was one of the founding Directors of Desert Tracks taking visitors to Angatja and telling them the Ngintaka Tjukurpa in country, singing and dancing the story alive! Kunmanara led many trips back to his birth country and the Ngintaka resting place at Aran'nga.

Marita Baker, Translator & Project Consultant, Kanpi, SA

Marita Baker 

Marita is an artist keeping alive the family painting tradition of her famous father Jimmy Baker. She is a highly skilled bi-cultural translator and community manager employed by Pitjantjatjara cultural enterprises particularly art centres. Marita has been involved with developing the Songlines Project across the APY Lands. Since 2008 she has actively promoted APY Art Centres and artists' involvement in the Project as important for regional cultural heritage and the passing on of knowledge about community and country to the next generation.

Senior Consultant Ngintaka Songline Traditional Owner, Mimili

Kunmanara Edwards, (deceased) Sadly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

Kunmanara  Edwards was a senior Ngintaka elder who guided researchers along the Ngintaka Tjukurpa/ Warpa through his country for many years. He was a key instigator and leader of this research Project. We respect his memory and his life's work.

 Diana James, Project Coordinator & Research Associate, ANU

Diana James

Diana is an anthropologist who has spent the last ten years developing this project collaboratively with Anangu and Martu elders. She is a bilingual interpreter who has worked in Indigenous arts and tourism in the Western Desert for thirty years. She is aware of the important role of the arts and art centres in the health and wellbeing of communities. Diana is enthusiastic about the possibilities for engaging Aboriginal youth in multi-media recording of the song, storytelling, dance and art of their elders. Empowering of communities and individuals in various roles that support cultural and ecological heritage and renewal is a key motivator of her applied research methodology and practice.

 Rene Wanuny Kulitja (Artists & Member NPY Women's Council), NT

Rene Wanuny Kulitja

Rene is a full-time artist. Her work features in many national and international exhibitions and has been exhibited in Belgium and Japan. She works with many media, including glass and ceramics, paint and tjanpi (grass) baskets. A high profile international artist, Rene has one of her designs featured on a Qantas Boeing 747 jet. In 2000 Rene was one of the 330 Aboriginal women from Central Australia who performed at the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony.

"I get my inspiration from our culture and country and all our animals and plants. Our culture and language is very strong and is very important to us. I want all our children to grow up to be strong young adults, to carry on looking after our traditional law and eventually be parents themselves.

Andrea Mason, CEO Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council

Andrea Mason 

Andrea is highly experienced in the arenas of Aboriginal housing,employment,legal and political resprentation. Born in Perth her family later moved to Adelaide where she became a secondary school netball champion and went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in Aboriginal Affairs and Public Administration. From 1989 onwards she worked on housing and employment programs with the South Australian Public Service. In 2002, Andrea commenced a Bachelor of Laws Degree at the University of Adelaide. On the 8 August 2004, Mason became the first-ever Indigenous Australian woman to lead an Australian political party, when the Family First Party chose her as the party's South Australian lead Australian Senate candidate. Now as Coordinater of the NPYWomen's Council, Andrea fully supports the women's art and culture.

She says," The opportunity to celebrate the strength and vitality of women’s law and culture by participating in the Alive with the Dreaming! Songlines of the Western Desert Project over the full duration of the four year project, provides an opportunity to compliment and integrate the cultural activities that NPYWC already delivers to women of the NPY region."

Mr David Miller, Chairman Ananguku Arts Board, Kanpi, SA

Mr David Miller 

Mr Miller is a senior Pitjantjatjara custodian of the Ngintaka Tjukurpa. He has lived for many years at Kanpi, a community established in the 1980s when Anangu moved back to their traditional homelands west of Amata. He is a community leader with long experience in the politics of Aboriginal Land Rights, regional and local councils and art centre business management. He has led Ngintaka trips back to country and been a senior consultant on the Ngintaka Exhibition curatorium.

Professor Howard Morphy, Chief Investigator, Australian National University

Professor Howard Morphy 

My long involvement in Visual Anthropology and the Anthropology of Art have been driven by my interest in the aesthetic dimension of visual culture. A major focus of my research has been on the relationship between Indigenous Australians and the land as it is manifest in art and performance. My main fieldwork has been in northern Australia where I have undertaken significant mapping exercises with Frances Morphy, most recently for the Blue Mud Bay native title claim. However my original research was on the toas and the Ancestral landscape of Lake Eyre region and I have subsequent extensively researched the intellectual history of Spencer and Gillen's work in Central Australia. I have written significant theoretical works on Ancestral tracks and the associated concepts of Dreamtime and Songlines, which have developed over time as part of the popular and academic discourse on Aboriginal religion. I have strong interest in the digital humanities and have been involved in the development of the digital humanities hub at the ANU, developing databases and web based resources for researching Indigenous collections and mapping cultural heritage. I have also curated exhibitions as a means of communicating research ideas to different audiences including Yingapungapu, which was one of the opening exhibitions at the National Museum of Australia.

Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator, Songlines Co-investigator, National Museum of Australia

Margo Neale 

Margo will lead the visual art component of the research. She is an Indigenous art curator and academic considered a pioneer in the representation of Indigenous culture in public institutions across major art galleries,museums & universities. Her approach is multi-disciplinary one, resulting in multi-vocal, multi-focal & multidimensional exhibitions & symposia. Her particular strength is the consultative and collaborative dimension of her approach to projects and the value she gives to Indigenous modes of historical practice in non-text based genres. Her contribution to this project will be to pass on her curatorial skills, to be responsive to the traditional Aboriginal knowledge holders' visual and oral research methodologies, and to forge new models of collaboration between Indigenous communities and the NMA.

(L–R) Tjayangka Antjala, Kanytjupai, Tjilpi R. Kankapankatja

Tjayangka Antjala, Kanytjupai, Tjilpi R. Kankapankatja

(L–R) Tjayangka Antjala, Kanytjupai, Tjilpi R. Kankapankatja

This family of artists are also land managers of a large Indigenous Protected Area Wallalkara south of Fregon.

Senior Consultant Yankunytjatjara Ngintaka Songline Traditional Owner, Wallalkara to Pt Augusta

Kunmanara Tjilpi R. K. (Deceased) Sadly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

[His photo remains at the request of his family out of respect for his great contribution.]

Tjilpi was a senior law man and custodian of both the Ngintaka and Kungkarangalpa Tjukurpa. Sadly he has passed away but his legacy is honoured in the Ngintaka Exhibition and book produced by the Songlines Project. He was a man of vast traditional knowledge of Yankunytjatjara Dreaming song, story and tracks through the south-east APY Lands. As a senior citizen he took up painting his country, including the Seven Sisters' Kungkarangalpa travels down south from Wallalkara to Pt Augusta.

Kanytjupai R.

Kanytjupai R. 

Kanytjupai, duaghter of Tjilpi R.K.,  is an artist and office worker at Kaltjiti Arts. She is very skilled in both still and video photography and will be using these skills recording material on the research Project. Kanytjupai has been involved with developing the Songlines Project across the APY Lands. Since 2008 she has actively promoted APY Art Centres and artists' involvement in the Project as important for regional cultural heritage and the passing on of knowledge about community and country to the next generation.

 Libby Robin Co-investigator Australian National University

Libby Robin

Libby's role in the Songlines project will be as a historian of the environmental science history of the Western Desert region of Australia. This project will engage her practical and policy experience in conservation partnerships between government and community and with interdisciplinary work in global climate change science. Her previous experience in inter-disciplinary research in the field of environmental history, archaeology and art will be drawn on and expanded in this research project. Her ability to write about complex scientific concepts in publically accessible language will be an important contribution to the public outcomes of this ARC project.

 June Ross Co-investigator University of New England

June Ross

June brings to this project a sound knowledge of Indigenous people's understanding of rock art, and its role in contemporary societies, which provides her with a base on which to build the Songlines project. This knowledge,set against a solid grounding and enthusiasm for archaeological method and theory, enables her to consider the rock art assemblage from both Indigenous and European perspectives. Her previous experience in setting up and managing large-scale databases will be invaluable in creating a means to record and manage the data collected during the research. The addition of 'restricted access' filters means that such databases are secure and can be used to facilitate ongoing conservation and management strategies and as a tool for both Indigenous communities and researchers.

Margaret Smith ( member NPY Women's Council), Imanpa , NT

Margaret Smith 

Margaret is a Yankunytjatjara woman from the Imanpa Community, Northern Territory. A highly regarded spokesperson for the NPY region, she is a former Liaison Officer of Imanpa Arts and Crafts, and former Chairperson of Imanpa Community Council. Margaret has been a member of the Board of Management of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Cross-border Reference Group on Volatile Substance Misuse and she has attended a number of governance training sessions for Indigenous corporations. In 2000 she, in a group of 330 Aboriginal women, performed in the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Mike Smith Co-investigator National Museum of Australia

Mike Smith 

Mike will lead research into the archaeology of these songlines. Archaeological excavation and radiocarbon dating of major occupation sites in the Mann/Musgrave Ranges will provide basic information on the cultural chronology of the region. These sites include known rock shelter deposits, rock art sites, and major open site complexes with stratified deposits at the mouth of gorges or near rock holes. Sampling of sites will be framed and guided by the projects interdisciplinary research into the ontology and oral traditions of these songlines, allowing selection of sites with a known relationship to songline traditions (e.g. Cave Hill Walyinynga forms a key node on the Seven Sisters line). Where circumstances allow and key custodians agree, an attempt will be made to establish the age and construction history of stone arrangements, assisted by radiocarbon and OSL dating of associated sediments and sedimentary surfaces. Analysis of major complexes of rock art associated with the songlines (with J Ross) will a) trace continuities in graphic expression, totemic referents and motifs along the songline, b) links between pre-contact art and recent acrylic paintings in graphic vocabulary and composition and c) temporal shifts in art production at individual sites through analysis of superposition in rock art panels and chronological distribution of ochre in excavated deposits. To investigate the role of songlines as pathways of exchange, we will look at the distribution of red ochre and of grindstones along the Ngintaka songline using geochemical and petrological sourcing of sandstones and ochre.

Mr Robert Stevens, Ngintaka Tjukurpa Traditional Owner, served many years on  APY Council Executive

Mr Robert Stevens with AndyTjilari and Marita 

Robert Stevens is an active leader in protecting and suatining the law and culture of the APY Lands.He has led the Ngintaka project taking younger generations back to country, teaching the story and song, and working as a member of the Ngintaka Exhibition curatorium. He was one of the major spokesmen for APY Land Rights in 1981.

Curtis Taylor, Filmmaker, Martu, Western Australia

Curtis Taylor

Curtis is an innovative emerging filmmaker, cultural mediator and translator of Martu culture. Curtis has worked for the last few years with Martu Media and Kanyirninipa Jukurrpa. During this time he collaborated with ANU researchers on the ARC Linkage Project the Rock Art and Jukurrpa of the Canning Stock Route. Curtis is keen to work on the Songlines of the Western Desert Project as it connects important Jukurrpa of his Martu people with their Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara relatives across vast stretches of the Western Desert.

Elizabeth Tregenza, General Manager Ananguku Arts, Adelaide SA

Elizabeth Tregenza 

Elizabeth has worked for many years with Aboriginal arts and cultural centres. She supports Ananguku artists involvement in the Songlines Project. In her words, "This exciting project has the capacity to deliver real community-driven support for cultural maintenance which is integral to arts practice and in turn to building the social capital of communities."

The Indigenous members of this organisation have actively participated in the planning of this project. The governance and methodology of the project builds on best practice and provides a model for future Indigenous research projects. Anangu intellectual property will remain vested with artists and art centres and Traditional Knoweldge Holders under comprehensive IP agreements including a cross-licensing agreement with the Australian National University for the purpose of this project.

Inawinytji Williamson, Kungkarangkalpa Traditional Owner, Artist & Board Member of the Palya Foundation

Inawinytji Williamson 

Inawinytji has been the Chairperson of Kaltjiti Arts and was a founding Director of Ananguku Arts. She is a senior knowledge holder of many song cycles and ceremonial dance and continues to instruct younger women in traditional knowledge. An able and experienced interpreter between Pitjantjatjara to English she is an acommplished translator and editor assisting researchers writing on APY Lands art and culture.

Inawinytji says: "As Aboriginal people, we always take our culture with us. When we travel to the city to show our paintings we always dance and sing inma. Our culture and art is not separate, it is all one. We are artists, dancers and singers of the Tjukurpa, this means Dreaming, out traditional Law for a long time."

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Project Aims

Aboriginal Art Centres

Updated:  6 December 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications