National Library of Australia

Pitjantjatjara children’s drawings

Tjantjinti Untitled (child’s drawing) Ernabella 1940

crayon on paper; 40.0 x 44.0cm

Donated by Charles P. Mountford, 1959

South Australiana Collections, State Library of South Australia
Pitjantjatjara children’s drawings

It was probably the last time a Pitjantjatjara child would draw with so little European influence.

These drawings were made in 1940 by two pupils of the new school at Ernabella Mission on Pitjantjatjara land in the Musgrave Ranges in north-west South Australia.

Filled with Pitjantjatjara motifs and totemic objects, the drawings of Langaliki (10) and Tjantjinti (9), were collected by ethnographer Charles Mountford (1890–1976) during an expedition to Central Australia. They are now part of the extensive Mountford-Sheard Collection in the State Library of South Australia.

Unlike many Australian missions at the time, Ernabella aimed to preserve Indigenous ways of life, while introducing European principles and education. The mission’s buildings were largely constructed by Pitjantjatjara men, and classes were conducted in the their language.

The Pitjantjatjara were believed to be ‘probably the most unaffected by white influence of any of the tribes in Australia’. [1]

In 1981, the South Australian Government gave the Pitjantjatjara people inalienable freehold title to 103 000 square kilometres of north-west South Australia.

Ernabella, meanwhile, is today a centre of Pitjantjatjara art and craft production.


. Ron Trudinger, ‘An Educational Experiment’, The Messenger, 17 July 1942.