About our painting

This painting tells the story of some women who are unwell from having their kurrunpa or soul displaced, and a Ngangkari (traditional healer) restoring their kurrunpa to them.

The concept of kurrunpa is central to Western Desert people’s understanding of health and well-being. Disturbances in kurrunpa are common causes of illness, and reason for people to seek the assistance of a Ngangkari.

The painting illustrates that Aboriginal people maintain traditional concepts and practices concerning health and illness, alongside Western medicine. This emphasises the importance for health care practitioners of a different paradigm to recognise and respect the beliefs and practices of Aboriginal people to work effectively with them.

The artist, Kumantjai Dinny Tjampitjimpa Nolan, was a Ngangkari and an elder living in Papunya when Dr Steve Skov, District Medical Officer befriended him. Steve was a member of the editorial committee for the Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association (CARPA) Standard Treatment Manual, and he commissioned Mr Nolan to provide a painting for the cover of the first CARPA Standard Treatment Manual, published in 1992. The painting has remained the cover image for the CARPA Manual ever since.

Dr Steve Skov gifted the painting to CARPA in November 2016. In November 2022 AMSANT agreed to display the painting in their Alice Springs office. It was taken to the office and gratefully received by AMSANT staff, researcher Walbira, Corrina from the continuous quality improvement team and Hannah, an intern working with the social and emotional wellbeing team.