Elizabeth Nyumi – Artist from Balgo

Elizabeth Nyumi


Born: c. 1947
Location: Parwalla
Skin: Nungurrayi
Language: Pintupi
Themes: Purra (bush tomato), rock holes, coolamons and digging sticks, Kantilli (bush raisin), Minyali (seed), story of grandmother who killed and ate a snake with her three children, Tingari
Elizabeth Nyumi
Nyumi currently lives at Kururrungku (Billiluna), an outlying community from Balgo. Nyumi’s mother belonged to the country of Nynmi (Jupiter Well) near Kiwirrkurra on the Pintupi side. Tragically she died quite young from a dingo bite at the Kanari soak water close to Jupiter Well. Her father was from Alyarra in the region of Natajarra.

Nyumi was living a nomadic existence with her family group on the Canning Stock Route before walking into Old Balgo Mission with her father after her mother had died. Here she was given clothes and taken to Billiluna and trained as a house worker, cleaning the floors with rags, washing dishes and raking the grounds.

She subsequently traveled to many station houses around the region working for the wives of the station owners. Nyumi married a man called Palmer Gordon who is now a senior law man of the Billiluna community.

Both Nyumi and Gordon Palmer teach culture to the children at the school ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive. Nyumi advises the nursing staff at the health clinic about traditional bush medicines and she is also knowledgeable about carving coolamons and digging sticks.

Nyumi began painting in 1987 and emerged as a leading artist in the late 1990s. Her paintings are mainly concerned with her country and the abundant bush food belonging to her family. In her maturity as a painter she initially worked with a thick brush, covering the canvas in emanating lines in muted tones. Her style has now developed to using a multitude of dotting to build up fields of texture but she retains her signature motifs of small camps, coolamons and bush tucker trees and scrubs. She is an active member in the community, being a strong law and culture woman.

In 2004, Elizabeth Nyumi was selected for the Biennale of Sydney.

Her work is held in the following Collections: the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Artbank, Sydney; the Laverty Collection, Sydney and the Holmes à Court Collection, Perth.
We regularly offer paintings by Elizabeth Nyumi in the Paintings Gallery.