RESURGENCE 1960s and 1970s
The drama and tragedy of Albert Namatjira in 1958/59 intensified an unstable situation. Positively and empathetically, a resurgence of the art movement began as more often younger tribal relatives were inspired to start to paint seriously about their country: Clem Abbott from 1958, Keith Namatjira (Albert’s fourth son), Maurice Namatjira (Albert’s fifth son) and Gabriel Namatjira (Albert’s grandson, son of Enos Namatjira) from 1959; and from 1960 Arnulf Ebatarinja (nephew of Walter and Cordula Ebatarinja).
The early 1960s then brought the start of the careers of relatives Basel Rantji, Norman Ratara, Athanasius Renkaraka, Ivan Pannka, Joshua Ebatarinja, Lindberg Inkamala and Wenten Rubuntja (who was from the Alice Springs area and was independent of the Mission and western Arrernte elders). Wenten was a distant relative of Albert. Perhaps self-employment in painting was a constructive focus. The movement was at its height until around 1970. Some already established artists were inspired to resume their painting career afresh.
This was a period when artists’ lives changed as they experienced more of the town of Alice Springs and less of the influence of elders and missionaries. They spent increasing time in artists’ camps in the area around Morris Soak, on the western outskirts of town, often while their wives and children remained in the Hermannsburg environment, as confirmed with details of the 1966 Census of Wards in Alice Springs.
Sudden social changes and challenges followed the granting of drinking rights for all Aborigines in the Northern Territory in 1964. For example, drinking rights were accompanied with associated problems when traditional Aboriginal law was unable to deal with repercussions of drinking alcohol, such as which kin tribesmen were obliged or entitled to break up fights driven by alcohol.
Aboriginal people were not counted as citizens until after the Constitutional referendum of 1967.
With changing life-styles, the paintings of the 1960s tended to show increasing consciousness and appreciation of aboriginality, with more obvious assertive traditional patterning such as bands of dotting or diamond infill patterns being applied decoratively or for emphasis.
Wenten Rubuntja, born about 1926, was an established Hermannsburg style watercolour painter when he began painting in ‘two ways’ from the mid 1970s with his version of symbolic Western Desert inspired symbolic and dot art. Wenten was an important leader of the land rights movement. An Arrernte man from the Alice Springs area, he was independent of Mission culture.
Kaapa Tjampitjinpa in Papunya was painting pictorial Hermannsburg style landscapes from the early 1960s and in early 1971 created some traditional paintings in Papunya.
The land rights movement gripped the emotions of people in Central Australia. Some artists became more impassioned in their visual expression, including Keith Namatjira, Ewald Namatjira, Clem Abbott, Wenten Rubuntja, Jillian Namatjira.
The decade of the 1970s was a time of reflection, regeneration and transition. By the late 1970s the Hermannsburg School had lost momentum as most of the original artists were either dead or no longer painting. There was no longer a significant supply of new art works such as dealers needed for their expensive city galleries and there were limited financial incentives to deal in the Hermannsburg School.