Seeing the centre
The art of Albert Namatjira 1902–1959

Introduction | Discoveries | Light | Transformations | Animate | Sights | Intimate | Saplings | Looking | Bibliography | Gallery of works

Sights and sites: distant peaks and monoliths

Albert Namatjira's father (Jonathon), his father's father (Nguaperaka) and Nguaperaka's father (Wotta) all belonged to the same patrilineal clan estate in the northwest of Western Arrernte country. This country included such sacred sites as Ulaterka (Green Caterpillar Dreaming) and Lukaria (Honey Ant Dreaming), as well as Mount Sonder Rutjipma, the subject of many well-known paintings by Albert Namatjira.

Mythological knowledge was passed on through the male line. In the 1950s, Namatjira spoke of the country to the north of Glen Helen as his father's country. Much of this country is now also well known as tourist destinations.

Discrete peaks rising from a flat plain hold a particular appeal for the tourist: they function as goal posts for the journey, elements to be explored and experienced. For the traditional owners, however, they hold spiritual meaning. As with many locations in central Australia, peaks like Mount Sonder are therefore well documented as both 'sights' and 'sites'.

Landforms as discrete entities also held a fascination for Namatjira. Much like humans, large mountains or smaller scale monoliths might take on an identity in a way that is not possible for undulating tracts of country and flat plains, whose anonymity is sustained by the monotony of their uninterrupted expanse and ill-defined borders.

Albert Namatjira Haasts Bluff c 1956 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Banner: Albert Namatjira Mount Sonder, MacDonnell Ranges c 1957-59 (detail), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra