circa 1956, Yunala Rockhole, WA
Ray James Tjangala was born at Yunala rockhole west of Kiwirrkura, circa 1956. He spent his early childhood living a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle – moving seasonally between the sites of his homelands with his family, hunting and foraging for food. Ray’s was one of the last families to be contacted by the NT Welfare Patrol in the late 1950s, and they were taken to live at Papunya. Following the homelands movement of the 1970s, Ray returned to live at Kintore, later settling in Kiwirrkura.
Ray hails from an artistic lineage – his father Anatjari Tjampitjinpa was a founding Papunya Tula artist, and his sisters Mantua and Yinarupa Nangala are both highly regarded painters. Ray began painting in 1987 under his father’s tutelage. He has become a senior Papunya Tula artist, exhibiting prolifically, with works held in major collections including the NGA, NGV, AGNSW, Harvard Art Museum (USA), Toledo Museum of Art (USA), Voituron Collection (Belgium) and the Aboriginal Art Museum (The Netherlands).
Ray James’ untitled painting depicts designs associated with the site of Yunala, west of the Kiwirrkura community. During ancestral times, a large group of Tingari men camped at this site before continuing their travels to Wilkinkarra (Lake Mckay). While at Yunala, they gathered the edible roots of the silky pear or bush banana (Marsdenia australis), also known as yunala, which is plentiful in the area. The Tingari Cycle is secret-sacred in nature, but in general, the Tingari are a group of ancestral beings who traversed the country, shaping the landscape through their adventures. These ancestral stories form part of initiatory teachings today.
Yunala is of special significance to Ray, as it is the place of his birth.
In this work, Ray’s monochrome palette and fluid, oscillating lines conjure the sinuous tali (sand dunes) and intricate network of yunala (bush banana) roots that define the artist’s birthplace. This work is a departure from Ray’s signature masculine geometric style, suggesting the tender connection Ray has with this place.