Last month I wrote about the exhibition at Manly Art Gallery which featured Blak Douglas paintings and both pottery and art by the late Pepai Jangala Carroll. I mentioned a monograph on the Ernabella artist – and I now have it to report.

Coming from Adelaide’s 50 year old Jam Factory craft centre it’s a tremendous tribute to the man who only took to ceramics in the last 10 years of his eventful life. Wonderful images of both pots and places, and excellent brief essays on Carroll’s life and art. We learn, for instance, that his Pintupi ‘dogger’ father Paripata introduced him to his ancestral lands at Illpili, Ininti, Wilkinkarra and Walungurru as a boy in the course of a dingo hunting expedition – that being the only way a man capable of work could get a feed at assimilation stations like Haasts Bluff in the 1960s.

The current exhibition and book – both subtitled ‘Ngaylu Nyanganyi Ngura Winki’ (I Can See All Those Places) – resulted from a late-life return by Carroll to that Country, reported by Luke Scholes, who used to be based out there himself during his days with Papunya Tula Artists. Some memories from his boyhood remained with Carroll, such as a desert soakage which he identified and required hours of digging to produce the remembered water. But the locals at Kiwirrkurra queued up to help him, including Yalti Napangarti, who’d actually lived that Country as one of the Pintupi Nine, who only ‘came in’ in 1984. He also discovered and was inspired by the Yumari waterhole that his father had had responsibilities for, and its remarkable cruciform shape began to appear on both pots and canvases.

Yorta Yorta curator, Belinda Briggs helpfully lists the many roles that clay had in traditional Aboriginal lives. Though, oddly, it never turned into containers for them until the colonists came. But it went over big at Ernabella, the Pukatja-based art centre in the APY Lands when Simon Reece and Kirk Winters from the Jam Factory introduced it in 2011. Slab building with sgraffito decoration is Carroll’s chosen methodology, now fired onsite in a kiln virtually donated by artist Angela Valamanesh – though, infuriatingly, no one reveals in the book where the terracotta clay actually comes from.

A marvellous tribute to a man who made it through the amazing upheavals in Central Desert life from playing up so much at his Areyonga school that he was arrested and shunted off to Ernabella – where he became a model community member. Carroll was a cop with a 20 year career and Director of Nganampa Health before discovering his artistic capacities.

Pepai Jangala Carroll is published by the Wakefield Press at $60.

And Carroll’s market  value has just hit the headlines. At last night’s Sotheby’s Aboriginal art auction in New York, his work Walangurru sold for a recoird price of US$127,000. See picture.