Helicopter Mutji Tjungurrayi, Kukatja / Australian, born 1947
Wirrimanu (Balgo)
Western Australia



Acrylic on linen

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Will Owen and Harvey Wagner



Place Made: Australia, Oceania


21st century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


As the market for Indigenous Australian art developed in the 1980s, so did the demand for larger and larger works. It became common for women artists to assist their husbands or fathers in the laborious task of completing the dotted backgrounds of their paintings. In a reversal of this tendency, Helicopter Tjungurrayi began his painting career assisting his wife, Lucy Yukenbarri. Lucy started painting in 1989 under the influence of her father, Wimmitji Tjapangarti. Yukenbarri would become one of the most important innovators in Western Desert art, pioneering an influential technique known as kinti kinti. Translating literally as “close close,” kinti kinti refers to the technique of using overlapping dotting to create expanses of color and texture. This technique can be seen in all three of the works in this group to greatly different effect. The alternating bands of color in Helicopter’s Wangkartu are characteristic of a classical style of desert painting derived from the designs painted or carved on men’s ceremonial objects. Its radiating colors evoke the heat and shadow of the desert, while the dense build-up of pigment conjures a topography of shifting sand dunes. Yunyuli by Helicopter and Lucy’s daughter, Christine Yukenbarri, shows the influence of both parents. Depicting Christine’s mother’s country, Yunyuli is anchored around a black circle in a similar way to her mother’s painting Winpurpurla. Radiating bands of red and white represent sand hills, while in the bottom section she adopts the kinti kinti technique to evoke a bounty of desert foods—the same subject that dominates her mother’s painting.

From the 2019 exhibition A World of Relations, guest curated by Henry Skerritt, Mellon Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia

Course History

ANTH 15, Political Anthropology, Elena Turevon, Fall 2019

Exhibition History

A World of Relations, Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26-December 8, 2019.


Aboriginal Art Online, O'Connor, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; sold to Will Owen (1952-2015) and Harvey Wagner (1931-2017), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, February 15, 2010; given to present collection, 2014.

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