The Papunya Tula Art Movement began in 1971 when a school teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, encouraged some of the men to paint a blank school wall. The murals sparked off tremendous interest in the community and soon many men started painting. In 1972 the artists successfully established their own company.
The company is entirely owned and directed by traditional Aboriginal people from the Western Desert, predominantly of the Luritja/Pintupi language groups. It has 49 shareholders and now represents around 120 artists.
The company derives its name from Papunya, a settlement 240km north-west of Alice Springs.
Papunya settlement was established as an administrative centre by the government for the Aboriginal people who had moved in from the desert. Since then many Pintupi and Luritja people have moved back to their homelands and continue their strong ceremonial tie to the Land.
The company, initially based in the Papunya area, has met the challenges posed by the homelands movement in the last decade, and now extends its operations into Western Australia (covering an area which extends to 700km west of Alice Springs).
The Papunya Tula painting style derives directly from the artists' knowledge of traditional body and sand painting associated with ceremony. To portray these dreamtime creation stories for the public, has required the removal of sacred symbols and the careful monitoring of ancestral designs.
The work of the Papunya Tula artists is highly regarded. The high standard of the work and its unmistakable and powerful style has resulted in the Papunya Tula artists being represented in most public galleries, major museums, institutions and many large private collections within Australia as well as overseas.
The aim of the company is to promote individual artists, provide economic development for the communities to which they belong, and assist in the maintenance of a rich cultural heritage.