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Snake Vine Dreaming, Yanjirlpiri : contemporary uses of traditional iconography

 Ngalypi Jukurrpa Yanjirlpiri, Snake Vine Dreaming, by Geraldine Napangardi Granites

Ngalypi Jukurrpa Yanjirlpiri, Snake Vine Dreaming, by Geraldine Napangardi Granites

Our Art gallery seeks to showcase the versatility of the contemporary Australian Aboriginal artists, whose brilliant and diverse work is rooted both in the very real modern-day challenges of their culture & their rich heritage. One of these artists is Geraldine Napangardi Granites, who brings her own dynamic, modern painterly interpretation to a traditional subject matter : the Snake Vine Dreaming, or Ngalyipi Jukurrpa. 

The Snake Vine Dreaming Geraldine paints is associated with a specific country in the Australian Central Desert: Yanjirlpiri, or ‘star’ (known as Mt. Nicker), lying to the west of Yuendumu. In Aboriginal culture, Dreamings have specific ‘kirda’ (owners), and in the kirda of this Dreaming are the Japaljarri/Jungarrayi men & Napaljarri/Nungarrayi women. Geraldine is one such Napaljarri/Nungarrayi artist, the daughter of the celebrated artist Alma Nungarrayi Granites and granddaughter of Paddy Japaljarri Sims (dec) and Bessie Nakamarra Sims (Dec): two of Warlukurlangu Artists Artists Aboriginal Corporation founding artists. Born & bred in Yuendumu, she lives locally with her four children and has developed her artistry by observing her grandfather’s art and that of Judy Napangardi Watson, a Warlpiri artist at the forefront of a move towards more abstract rendering of Dreaming stories.

In Snake Vine Dreaming traditional iconography, sinuous lines represent the Ngalyipi (snake vine), and straight lines represent the witi (ceremonial poles) and karlangu (digging sticks). Geraldine's painting pools from this tradition, whilst giving us a visual representation of how intricately interwoven this plant is in the daily physical & spiritual life of its people, and the profoundly interconnected relationship of the Aboriginal people to Country.

The snake vine, or Ngalyipi [Tinospora smilacina]) is found in the trees and shrubs of sandy spinifex plains and sandhills, this green creeper has many uses in daily life and is of great ceremonial importance. The vine is made up into as a shoulder strap to carry parraja (coolamons) and ngami (water carriers), or exploited for its medicinal uses: as tourniquets, and its leaves and vines are used as bandages for wounds. The Warlpiri people sometimes chew the leaves to treat severe colds, or pound the stems into poultices to cure headaches.

The importance of Yanjirlpiri cannot be overemphasized, as the sons and grandsons of Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men are brought here from as far away as Pitjantjatjara country (to the south), and from Lajamanu (to the north) to be initiated. This witi ceremony is performed at night under the stars, during which Napaljarri and Nungarrayi women will dance but then look away and block their ears when it is time for the men dance. In men’s initiations, Ngalyipi is used to tie the witi (ceremonial poles) to the shins of the dancing initiates, and to tie yukurruyukurru (dancing boards) to dancers’ bodies.

You are always welcome to pay a visit to our Art gallery in Tetbury, Gloucestershire or to browse through its digital counterpart in the ART section of this website.

We regularly post blogs on the provenance of our artwork. If you are interested in learning more about Dreamings, do have a read of our blog The Dream before the Art.