Jorna Newberry Indigenous Australian, b. c.1959-

Jorna Newberry is a Pitjantjatjara artist who was born around 1959 at Angus Downs.

She currently splits her time between living a traditional Indigenous life in Warakuna and a modern life with her family in Alice Springs.


The late, great Tommy Watson was Jorna’s uncle and has been a tremendous influence on her work. Tommy taught her to paint in a multi-layered abstract way, so as to maintain the secrecy of important culture matters.


Jorna initially started to paint in the mid 1990’s at Warakuna. Her paintings refer to her country of Irrunytju in the Western Desert and are associated with significant traditional places of spiritual knowledge and ancestral stories, which are imbedded in the land.


Recently, Jorna developed a distinctive change in style, with a subtle, colour palette of whites, creams and neutrals on black ground. These richly detailed paintings create a sophisticated, contemporary aesthetic. Many represent Ngintaka, a giant perentie lizard and creation ancestral being of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people.  The Ngkintaka songline is the major creation story of the Angatja area, and indicates the significant spiritual connection to their lands. Perentie are tracked for long distances and hunted for food.


Another theme in her work is the portrayal of Walpa Tjukurpa - the wind dreaming. This is a story of Jorna’s mother’s country at Utantja, a large stretch of sacred ceremonial land that has hilly country and a large rock hole where many people come from time to time to paint up, dance and do ceremony. It is country filled with kangaroos, camels, rock wallabies and birds. 


“The wind ceremony forms winds… creates air to cool the lands…”  Jorna explains that wind also helps in hunting as being downwind from animals makes it easy to hunt successfully. In painting this story Jorna creates great movement and depth, with repetitive circular patterning, and intricate dotting.  The very surface of these works suggest the movement of wind across the desert sands, which creates eddies and ever changing surface patterns.