'Ngarlu', Love Story by Paddy Stewart Japaljarri

Paddy Stewart Japaljarri 'Ngarlu', Love Story 122 x 91cm.jpg
Paddy Stewart Japaljarri 'Ngarlu', Love Story 122 x 91cm.jpg

'Ngarlu', Love Story by Paddy Stewart Japaljarri


Paddy Stewart Japaljarri  1940 -2013

Acrylic on canvas

122 x 91cm

©Paddy Stewart Japaljarri/Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Association

Add To Cart

Ngarlu is country belonging to the Anmatjerre language group south-east of Yuendumu. 'Ngarlu' literally means 'red rock'. The Jukurrpa of this place tells of a Jungarrayi man, named Lilipinti, travelling west to another country for Kuridji (men's ceremonial business). On his travels, he saw a Napangardi woman, who is his mother-in-law according to the Aboriginal skin system and forbidden to him.  Lilipinti fell in love with her however, and when he arrived back home to Ngarlu, he couldn't stop thinking about her.  He spun wirritji (hairstring) and sang love songs which a jurlpu (bird) carried over to the Napangardi.  The straight lines represent the force of the magic love songs pulling the woman to the Jungarrayi. The jurlpu flew back with the Napangardi on his wings to join with the Jungarrayi at Ngarlu.  The 'U' shapes at the centre of the canvas represent the women of Ngarlu gossiping about this 'wrong-skin' love union.  When Lilipinti and his Napangardi made love, his penis broke off inside of her and the both turned to stone.  There is a rockhole at Ngarlu which shows the place of their love-making.  The kirda (owners) for this Jukurrpa are Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men and Napaljarri and Nungarrayi women.

Paddy Japaljarri Stewart was from Mungapunju, just south of Yuendumu.  When he was a young man he was a station worker at Mt Allen, Mt Dennison and up the top end. He worked as a chef in Papunya, hence his nickname ‘Cookie’. Cookie worked at the Yuendumu school teaching young kids, both kardiya and yapa (non aboriginal and aboriginal). He taught painting, jukurrpa (dreaming), tracking (dingo, kangaroo, goanna etc…), how to make wax for the sand painting, dancing, making boomerangs and many other important culture traditions. Each day Paddy drove the school bus that collected the kids. He was also involved in the council and in Night Patrol.  He was previously the chairman for the Warlukurlangu Artists Committee, and painted regularly including working on the Yuendumu School Doors.

In 1988 Paddy Stewart was selected by The Power Gallery, Sydney University to travel to Paris with five other Warlpiri men from Yuendumu to create a ground painting installation at the exhibition ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ at the Centre Georges Pompidou. The trip took place in May 1989 and the painting was received with world wide acclaim.

Paddy Japaljarri Stewart exhibited artwork throughout Australia & around the world; including exhibitions in France, USA, Germany, UK, French Polynesia & Amsterdam. Paddy Japaljarri Stewart is featured in the collections of Major Art Institutions in Australia and around the world.

Text © and courtesy of Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Association

Paddy Japaljarri Stewart was from Mungapunju, south of Yuendumu and a Chairman of the Warlukurlangu Artists Committee.

Stewart was one of the artists who contributed to the historic Honey Ant Dreaming mural on the Papunya school wall in 1971 - the very genesis of the modern Aboriginal art movement.

The people of Yuendumu in the early 1980s began transferring their traditional ochre ground paintings to canvas.  In 1983, Stewart along with four other artist painted thirty of the Yuendumu Schooldoors with Dreaming designs, negotiating the content with other Warlpiri men and women who also collectively owned the designs. Twenty-seven Dreamings (tjukurrpa) were represented on the Doors, referring to more than two hundred sites in Warlpiri and Anmatyerre territory.

The painted Doors were also intended to remind the Yuendumu schoolchildren of a web of sites and obligations extending across their country. The Doors remained at Yuendumu, resisting erasure for twelve years despite the desert wind and sun, and robust treatment from Warlpiri schoolchildren.

The entire series of Yuendumu Doors was acquired by the South Australian Museum in 1995 and then restored. Twelve of the best doors were selected for a traveling exhibition that toured Australia for three years; the Yuendumu Doors are now at the South Australian Museum.

Warlukurlangu artists have become known for for their vibrant palette which in recent years has encompassed an extraordinary range of colours - from hot fuschia, mauve and electric blue to marigold yellow and tangerine orange.

There is a stylistic similarity between many of the artists’ works, but there are also artists whose work is highly individual, such as Judy Napangardi Watson, Jack Jakamarra Ross, Polly Napangardi Watson, Clarise Nampijinpa Poulson, Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Paddy Japaljarri Stewart.

In May 1989, Stewart traveled to Paris to create a ground installation at the Centre Georges Pompidou for the "Magiciens de la Terre exhibition which received world acclaim.

In 2004 Stuart Macintyre wrote in a "A concise history of Australia' that Paddy Japaljarri Stewart recorded his testimony in his own language in 1991. "He evokes the continuity of dreaming from Grandfather and father to son and grandson, down the generations and across the passages of time; yet the insistence on the obligation to preserve and transmit his three jukurrpass attest to the corrosive possibility of secular change. He goes on to aver that the maintenance of Dreaming has to be really strict', so that his family will not lose it like paper, or throw it away or give it away to other families.

"My father's grandfather taught me first, and after a while my father taught me the same way as his father told jukurrpa [Dreaming], and then my father is telling the same story about what his father told him and now he is teaching me to live the same kind of jukurrpa and follow the way what my grandfather did, and then teach what my father did, and then I'm going to teach my grandchildren the same way as my father taught me. When my father was alive this is what he taught me. He taught me the traditional ways like the traditional deigns in body or head of kangaroo Dreaming (that's what we call marlu Dreaming) and eagle Dreaming. He taught me to sing song for the big ceremonies. People who are related to us in a close family, they have to have the same sort of jukurrpa Dreaming, and to sing songs in the same way tht we do our actions like dancing, and painting on our bodies or shields or things, and this is what my father taught me. My dreaming is the kangaroo dreaming, the Eagle Dreaming and the budgerigar Dreaming, so I have three kinds of Dreaming in my jukurrpa and I have to hang onto it. This is what my father taught me, and this is what I have to teach my sons the same way my father taught me, and thats way it will go on from grandparent to sons, and follow that jukurrpa. No-one knows when it will end."

Early in his life he worked as a chef in Papunya, and since retained his nickname 'Cookie'. Japaljarri's work is one of the most plagued by fake copies, and was centre to one of the first art forgery cases to be heard in Australia. He is also one of the first Aboriginal artists to achieve a high international profile in the late 1980s.

In 1995, the Canberra Medical Society, specifically Dr Martin Duncan and Dr Cam Webber went to the remote Yuendumu settlement where they removed cataracts from five Aboriginal artists including Stewart who had one of the most difficult conditions.

In 2001 Stewart and Paddy Japaljarri Sims, won the TELSTRA WORK ON PAPER AWARD from the The National Aboriginal Art Award (now Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, NATSIAA).


National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Adelaide

Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht

South Australian Museum

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvin Grove, Glasgow, Scotland

Flinders University Art Museum, South Australia

Gordon Darling Foundation, Canberra

Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

Seattle Art Museum, U.S.A.