Linda Syddick Napaltjarri Indigenous Australian, b. c.1937-

Born: Lake Mackay in the Gibson Desert

Language: Pintupi


Linda Syddick Napaltjarri was born in 1937. Her innovative and distinctive paintings are intensely original and fuse stories of Christianity and Aboriginal tradition in an attempt to show the link between Christian beliefs and the Aboriginal view of creation known as the Dreaming (Tjukurrpa). Tjukurrpa is a spiritual concept which incorporates past, present and future into a dynamic continuum.


Linda was born around Lake Mackay in the Gibson Desert, of the 'Western Desert' region, near the border of Western Australian and Northern Territory. Her father was killed when she was young, and her mother later re-married Shorty Lungkarta Tjungarrayi, an artist whose work was a significant influence on her when she started painting.


As a child she lived a traditional nomadic lifestyle walking the Pintupi homelands, developing an intimate knowledge of her country. Like many of the families from the desert region during the 1940s, they walked to the settlements on the eastern edge of the desert. There they made first contact with missions and government ration stations that were far from their ancestral lands.


The small nomadic clan that first came to the settlement at Mt Liebig in 1945 had with them a Nangkari (witch doctor), who on seeing a windmill took it to be an evil spirit and attacked it with his magic. Linda's second father, Shorty Lungkarta was also a powerful man, the owner of many Dreaming stories, and was also a Magic man who could communicate with the spirit world. Unlike the others, he had some knowledge of the whitefella world, having worked with the army during the War. He had seen a windmill and knew their purpose. Shorty explained: "This is a whitefella thing, used for getting water up from under the ground. See that pond over there, that is good water for us to drink."


In 1985, just before Shorty Lungkarta died, he told Linda that she was to carry on his work and to continue to paint his Tjukurrpa or Dreamings. So in 1986, Linda Syddick Napaltjarri was taught to paint by her two uncles Uta Uta Tjangala and Nosepeg Tjupurrula, both of whom were significant figures in the Papunya Desert Art Movement.


Linda touches on global themes in her work, and represents contemporary issues affecting her peers, such as alcohol and money. A senior Pintupi woman, most of Linda's works were strictly traditional Pintupi style paintings until recently.  Linda also regularly paints Tjukurrpa stories related to the Tingari and the Emu Men. The Emu Men were Creation Ancestors who travelled the country during the Tingari or Dreaming era. The Emu was the totem of her father, Rintje Tjungurrayi and stepfather, Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi. The Tingari were ancestral spirits beings, who went on very long journeys, creating much of the desert landscape in Central Australia, and instructing the people about law and custom. Many paintings represented topographical maps where major Tingari events occurred - significant metaphysical stories combined with the artist's own ever-present memories of life in the Gibson Desert. Linda often incorporates many perspectives and stories into a single painting.  Linda's sense of composition and colour are also extraordinary. Linda's work is represented in public and private collections throughout Australia, USA and Europe.