Punyarniti I. Artist: Lucy Yukenbarri Napanangka

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This print depicts some of Lucy’s country far to the south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert. This country is known as Punyanita and is named for the soakwater, or tjurrnu, featured in the centre of the painting. Tali, or sand dunes, dominate the landscape of the area, while purra (bush tomato), tjunta (bush onion) and karnti (bush potato) are commonly found here. The small dots depict the variety of these foods. The U shapes represent women performing ceremony to ensure the bush foods will remain abundant and maintain their strong connections with country.

This is one of 28 prints included in the exhibition Yilpinji, Love Magic & Ceremony that toured throughout Australia and internationally. This is the first time in the history of Aboriginal printmaking that a body of prints became available that focused on a unique aspect of Aboriginal culture. Fifteen senior Aboriginal artists have each created a thematic work on Yilpinji, the love magic practised by the Warlpiri and Kukatja people of the central and western deserts of Australia. This little-known aspect of Aboriginal culture is explored in this important body of etchings, screenprints and linocuts.

This print and the other 27 showing in the exhibition are graphically illustrated with accompanying text in the book, Yilpinji Love Art & Ceremony, written by Christine Nicholls, senior lecturer, Flinders University.

This is an original, limited-edition screenprint created by the artist on acetate sheets and printed by master printmaker Theo Tremblay on 300gsm Magnani Pesica archival paper. 


  • Medium: linocut - hand wiped and rolled eight-colour relief print
  • Image size: 76cm x 56cm
  • Paper size: 76cm x 56cm
  • Edition size: 99

Lucy Yukenbarri, an Aboriginal artist from Balgo Hills in Western Australia, was a respected senior custodian with a vast knowledge of the waterholes in the Great Sandy Desert. She began painting in 1989. Lucy’s early works followed standard Balgo Hills methods of forming lines by means of rows of dotting and of outlining icons in a similar way. A quietly creative artist, she then moved to another technique using single colour fields of dotting, later going on to a next step of painting her dots so closely together that they converged, creating dense masses of pigment on the surface of the canvas. This, together with her exploration of the visual possibilities of black icons for waterholes and soakwaters and of dark green and blue, gave her work a distinctive style, producing effects unique in desert Aboriginal art. As a result, her work became sought after in the marketplace.

Yukenbarri’s later works were boldly covered in thick paint. She concentrated on painting the soaks and rock holes of her country, as well as the numerous types of bush food including Kantilli (bush raisins) and Pura (bush tomato).

She laughingly described herself as a “wild one” in her youth, running away from ceremonial business into the bush. There is also the story of the long walk in from the desert to the mission when they would stop at the wells along the track to pump for water. Once at the mission, she helped make the bread and later began painting. She travelled extensively with her painting (Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Darwin, Kununurra), but preferred to stay in Balgo with her family. Lucy Yukenbarri held many ceremonial responsibilities in the keeping of traditional law.

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