Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country)

Accession Number AWM2017.1296.1
Collection type Art
Measurement Framed: 167.8 cm x 244.5 cm x 5.2 cm; Unframed: 166.2 x 242.8 x 2.8 cm
Object type Painting
Physical description Acrylic on linen
Maker Muffler, Betty
Place made Australia: South Australia, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands
Date made 2017
Conflict Period 1950-1959
Period 1960-1969

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


This painting by senior Pitjantjatjara artist and traditional healer Betty Muffler depicts the good places, that is, places that are healing in her country following the devastation caused by the weapons testing program at Maralinga during the 1950s and 60s. Muffler is a strong kungka (woman) who survived the bombings at Maralinga when many didn't. Muffler's work explores this terrible and sad story in commemoration with scratchy, harsh brush markings; it shows her experiences travelling through the APY Lands, offers healing and commemorates through design her movement in escaping the devastation of the bombs.

The main bomb site is depicted in the top centre of the canvas, the rich white colours show the white smoke zigzagging up and across Country. Of this site, Muffler explained that this is the hardest spot, the beauty and terror of the bomb itself, and the impact on the landscape. The darkened area below the main bomb site shows the smoke and dead country that died immediately from the poison of the bombing. This is crying land. The circle shapes in the upper left of the canvas show a passage through scrubs where children were ushered out of the danger zones on the lands, away from the bomb site and to safety. This is a good place; the country protected the children who ran from the danger. The lower left corner of the canvas is also symbolic of a safe area of country where Anangu hid. The right of the canvas, starting below the edge of the white smoke from the bomb, features track marks of running footprints. This is the prints of Anangu who tried to flee the site. Some people survived, for others it was too late. This area is still dark because it carried the sadness of the land here.

Muffler's complex landscape lends to an ultimate equilibrium through true grit and integrity of drawing. Muffler says, "My painting shows many of the good places in my country. We need to heal this country, and give more respect to the land" (Muffler to Iwantja Arts, May 2018).

Muffler is a renowed Ngangkari (traditional healer) and dynamic artist. Born in the remote bush area near Watarru in 1944, Muffler and her family moved to Indulkana when the community was first set up and currently works out of Iwantja Arts. She continues to work across the APY Lands, supporting Anangu and country with her healing and has worked in hospitals in Adelaide, Coober Pedy, Whyalla and Alice Springs.