Papunya Town Planning

My thanks to Alec O’Halloran for pointing me to the answer to last week’s question about the topography of Papunya, where a ring road around the center of the settlement is surrounded by the semi-circular tracks of an Aboriginal iconographic design.In Janet Maughan’s introduction to Dot & Circle: a retrospective survey of the Aboriginal acrylic paintings of Central Australia (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1986) she refers to an earlier publication, J. H. Downing’s Aboriginal ‘Dreamings’ and Town Plans: a report on traditional Aboriginal camp layout in relation to town planning (Institute for Aboriginal Development, 1979). She writes:

So important is this story [the honey ant dreaming] in the linking of the site to the community that in the face of ordering a town plan, the honey ant story provided the underlying concept.. The Rev. J. H. Downing wrote —

The people already knew what they wanted and after I had shown them the various designs, produced a painting of the honey ant dreaming (tjala) (Downing, pp. 22-23).

Thus the imposed physical constructions which accompanied European administration were to be grouped centrally with the concomitant housing in semi-circular arrangements around these service buildings (Maughan, p. 15)

The following illustration appears on page 14 of Dot & Circle.


Thanks also to Jan Svenungsson, whose curiosity prompted me to pursue the answer to this question.


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One Response to Papunya Town Planning

  1. Pingback: Streets of Papunya | Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American eye

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