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Partner to Kaapa Tjampitjinpa during the early days of the modern painting movement at Papunya, Eunice along with her sister Pansy was one of the few women who began painting and selling works independently of the male dominated art centre. Like other female partners and relatives, she assisted the men with infilling and background dotting on their larger works. Her own creative flair and confidence, however, began to blossom during the late 1980s when Daphne Williams became art coordinator at Papunya. Eunice’s love of colour and surety of design saw her quickly become a leader in the emerging women’s painting movement of the 1990s. Her work was soon chosen to represent Australia internationally and a large piece is on permanent display at Alice Springs airport.
Born and raised in the bush near Yuendumu and living on the traditional bush tucker of the spinifex country, Eunice learned the ancient Dreaming stories from her grandparents, depicting them in the desert sand. When she and her sisters Alice, Rene and Pansy Napangardi began to paint with acrylic colours, Eunice’s signature theme became Yuparli or Bush Banana Dreaming. She shows the bush banana in its various growth cycles, with radiating vines growing about the rocky crevices, close to riverbeds. It is an important food source and has specific healing qualities and is therefore of immense importance to all Aboriginal peoples of Central Australia. Her work is animated and spirited like the woman herself, expressing the rich culture of her people and their deeply spiritual connection to the land.
Apart from several trips to city art engagements, Eunice spent most of her life in the Alice Springs area and spoke limited English, but she would paint industriously, sometimes for ten hours a day, producing glorious works that travelled the globe. She began to paint with Maxie Tjampitjinpa before he died, and before her own sudden and untimely death had become a respected elder and healer.
Johnson, Vivien. 2008. Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Australia. IAD Press.
Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen and Canvas