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 Eubena Nampitjin  (c. 1920s - 2013)

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Lived/Active: Australia      Known for: Aboriginal art symbolic of native culture

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Kinyu, 2007
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Eubena Nampitjin was the doyen of women painters at Balgo, Eubena in western Australia. Nampitjin lived through one of the major diasporas in modern Australian history. Born at Yalantjiri, her country runs along the Canning Stock Route that took Aboriginal people to mission stations and settlements far from their homelands and up into the Kimberley.

With her first husband, Gimme, she drove cattle from Kunawarritji (Well 33) to the rail head at Wiluna in the south, and to Billiliuna Station in the north. Eubena and Gimme and their family settled at Balgo about 1948. When her first husband died around 1979, Eubena married Wimmitji Tjapangarti, a maparn or traditional healer and a man of high ritual authority. Together they recorded ancestral narratives and ceremonies for the anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt, and later went on to collaborate in paintings to become the most well-known artist couple from Balgo.

Eubena had originally begun to paint in 1986 for the exhibition Art from the Great Sandy Desert at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and she has been represented in several major exhibitions in Australia and abroad, including "Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1993; "ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf", the Hayward Gallery, London; and the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark, in 1993-94; and "Stories: Eleven Aboriginal Artists, Works from The Holmes Court Collection" at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany, in 1995.

Eubena won the Open Painting section of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in Darwin in 1998. In 2010, Eubena was a feature artist in the exhibition Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route, at the National Museum of Australia.

One of the major recurring themes in the latter part of her painting career is Kinyu, the ancestral Dingo. In the Dreaming, Kinyu in the form of a man was attacked by intruders and defended himself by hurling sacred objects made of hair at them. These events occurred at a water soak called Midjul that Eubena would visit often to honour her ancestor.

From about 2000, Eubena developed a series of architectural templates where lines of colours swirl and merge to meet along a central 'backbone' or prominent line as in Kinyu, 2007. The palette relies heavily on the reds and yellows she discovered in 1989 and that were to become a hallmark of much of her later work.

Wally Caruana, Bonham's Sydney Auction House

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Eubena (Yupinya) Nampitjin is the best known of Balgo's many painters. Below is a short summary of her life.  Eubena was born some time in the 1920s at Tjinjadpa, west of Jupiter Well on the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia. She speaks Wangkajungka and Kukatja languages. She is one of the most esteemed law women in the Balgo community, being consulted and deferred to on all questions of law.

When she was a young girl, Eubena was taught her maparn (traditional healer) skills by her mother Moogaga. The family travelled and hunted on the northern fringes of the Great Sandy Desert, performing ceremonies and law for the upkeep of their country and their own spiritual preservation.

Nomadic life was harsh and most of her extended family died or moved to other parts of the country. Eubena talks of many 'sorry' times associated with these losses in her family.

Eubena with her husband and family traveled up the Canning Stock Route to Billiluna Station before following the mission as it moved around, until arriving at its present site at Balgo Hills. Before his death, her husband Gimme helped Father Piele with a Kukatja (Eubena and Gimme's second language) dictionary, to which Eubena also contributed. Today she is one of the few people alive who maintains a full vocabulary of this language.

Despite living at the mission and tending herds of goats, Eubena continually travelled back to her country, living in and from the land for extended periods. Her extraordinary hunting instinct (which remains today) combines with an effortless energy when she is out in the country. She still regularly spends months at a time out in the bush.

Eubena started painting with her second husband Wimmitji in the mid 1980s. Their work shared a luminous and intricate complexity along with a love of the warm reds, oranges and yellows that continues to be Eubena's signature today. Eubena's reputation grew, as one half of the famous painting duo at Balgo, but also as a solo artist in her own right. She is now recognised as the leading artist in Balgo and one of the outstanding Aboriginal artists in Australia.

Eubena has great spontaneity and strength in her painting, leaving rhythmical tracks across the canvas composed of thick layers of dotted lines. Painting is like her second language and she paints persistently with passion and dedication.

While she is a regular and committed painter, the number of paintings she has produced has fallen in recent years because of the amount of time she spends out on her country, away from the "humbug" of community life.

The major Dreaming stories depicted by Eubena in her work are from the Tingari (ancestral women) cycle and the Wati Kutjarra (two men dreaming). Other themes in her paintings include: Tjumu (soak water); Tjukarra (rock holes); Malu (kangaroo dreaming); bush tomato; goanna, mouse, moon and dingo dreaming.

Eubena's work is represented in many major public and private collections in both Australia and overseas. A large article about her was included in the March 2001 issue of Australian Art Collector magazine, where she was rated as one of the 50 most collectable artists in Australia.

"Eubena Nampitjin-Leading Balgo Artist", Aboriginal Art Online,, (Accessed 2/24/2012

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