Kim Mahood is the author of Craft for a Dry Lake, Position Doubtful and the essay ‘Kartiya Are Like Toyotas: White Workers on Australia’s Cultural Frontier’.
The route to Papunya from Alice Springs, via Glen Helen Gorge and the Western MacDonnell Ranges, takes you through colour-saturated country fractured with geological upheavals, sculpted by wind and water, scored and scoured by time. A crenellated horizontal strip of dark red dolomite, in places barely a metre thick, stalks along the foothills of the ranges like a horde of migrating stegosaurs. In the distance is the dark blue bulk of Mount Sonder: the Sleeping Woman lies prone and splayed, a vast fertility goddess with breasts and flanks cleft with indigo shadows.
It’s a tableau of arrested movement, as if the creation beings have paused for the seconds it takes you to pass, and will resume the lively and inventive business of making the country as soon as you are gone.
This is also the landscape made famous by the Namatjira school of painters, and while Albert...