Mary Dixon Nungarrayi | Artist Profile

Details of Mary Dixon Nungarrayi


Other Languages: Luritja


Born at Derwent Crossing near Town Bore east of Papunya, Mary Dixon identifies Warlpiri as her language group, but nominates the area around Haasts Bluff where she grew up, as her country. Her mother was from Napperby and her father from Titree originally, but both parents lived at Haasts Bluff when Mary was born. They took her back to Papunya to live, where she went to school. The artists Maudie Petersen and Lynette Corby, are her sisters. Mary met and married fellow artist Colin Dixon at Papunya, but they moved with their four children to Mt Liebig community when it was established, so Mary was closer to her father’s adoptive country. Colin and Mary, and Mary’s sisters began painting in the mid ’80s when the company’s field officers were making regular trips to Mt Liebig. Colin’s works were included in the Stockmen’s Hall of Fame, Longreach, Queensland and World Expo ’88 in Brisbane.

In the 1990s, Colin and Mary Dixon moved into Alice Springs, and lived at Namatjira Camp. They sold their work through the Centre for Aboriginal Artists in Alice Springs, and a variety of other outlets as far north as Katherine. Mary painted with Papunya Tula in the 1990s, and then she started painting with Mt Liebig artists.

Mary often paints Witchetty Grub Dreaming and a Milky Way Dreaming concerning the origins of Venus, Orion and the Pleiades. Her work included in exhibitions mounted by the Centre for Aboriginal Artists at the Gauguin Museum, Tahiti in 1988 at the Chapman Gallery for which Mary travelled to Canberra. She has been included in a number of publications based primarily on the work of the painters operating through the Centre for Aboriginal Artists.

Mary also paints designs associated with traditional women’s ceremony, including body painting motifs and the woven hair-string adornments that are used in the ceremony. The women trace the designs onto their bodies, singing as each woman takes her turn to be ‘painted up’. Their songs relate to the Tjukurrpa Dreaming stories of ancestral Creation beings who travelled the country and brought into being all the features of the landscape and natural world.

The women’s ceremony demonstrates respect for the land. In performing these ceremonies the women ensure well-being on their lands and within their communities. The women make woven ceremonial belts from hair-string, and then paint the ceremonial designs on their breasts, first with their fingers, and then with a brush made from a stick. They paint with red and white ochres. The older women ensure the passing on of the traditional knowledge to the younger women.

Mary’s husband Colin is very elderly now, and lives at Heƫ Perkins Aged Care facility. Her children and grand children are spread across Central Australia.Mary has been forced for health reasons to live in Alice Springs. She is happy to be able to join family at Tangentyere to paint.


2016, November - Town Camp Yarns, Short St Gallery, Broome, WA
2016, August - Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, Darwin NT
2016, June - Group Exhibition with Ewyenper Atwatye Artists, Hermannsburg Potters and Yarrenyty Arltere Artists at Tangentyere Artists Gallery Arrweketye Mob
2016, May - Tangentyere Artists Gallery Alice Springs NT Many Women, Many Stories, Many Ways
2016, May - Group Exhibition, Tangentyere Artists Gallery Many Women, Many Stories, Many Ways


1994 - McCulloch, Alan McCulloch, Susan McCulloch, Emily McCulloch-Childs. The New McCulloch's Encyclopaedia ofAustralian Art. 4th Edition, Aus Art Melbourne & The Miegunyah Press
1994 - Johnson, Vivien, Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert-A Biographical Dictionary. Craftsman House, Sydney.
1990 - Germaine, Max. Artists and Galleries of Australia, Volumes 1 & 2, Third Edition. Craftsman Press, Sydney.
1991 - Germaine, Max. A Dictionary of Women Artists of Australia. Craftsman House, Sydney.

Artworks of Mary Dixon Nungarrayi

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