The groundbreaking Papunya Tula, Genesis and Genius exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales was the first major retrospective by artists from Papunya in Australia’s Western Desert. Consisting of 150 works by over 50 artists, the exhibition provided an overview of the origins and stylistic development of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art during the last three decades.

The Papunya Tula art movement”with its ancestral myths or Dreaming stories and unique imagery”was born in the early 1970s in the oppressive, desolate and poverty-stricken conditions of a government settlement 250 miles west of Alice Springs, in central Australia.

The settlement was officially opened in 1960 under the Menzies Liberal government’s racist assimilation program. According to the government, Aborigines were not ready to live as white Australians and had to be re-educated to hasten their advancement. In practice, this meant relocation of Aborigines from their traditional lands and suppression of their language, art and culture. This policy also involved the forced removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents and their dispersal into government or religious institutions or foster care.