“When I’m painting I think of the old people doing their painting, telling their stories.”
Rebecca Nungarrayi Spencer was born in 1976 in Alice Springs and grew up on an outstation near Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community 290 km north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia, called Yarrabellung with her grandparents. They used to come to Yuendumu to do shopping and return to the outstation. When young she moved from the bush to go to school at Yuendumu. She is part of a large extended family, many who paint with Warlukurlangu Artists.
Rebecca has been painting with Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned and governed art centre located in Yuendumu, since 1997. She paints her father’s Jukurrpa, stories which relate directly to her land, its features and the plants and animals that inhabit it. These stories were passed down to her by her mother and her grandmother and their parents before them for millennia. The dreaming stories she always paints, Wardapi Jukurrpa (Goanna Dreaming) and Janganpa Jukurrpa (Possum Dreaming), are from the outstation area where she grew up. “I use to watch the old people doing painting and listen to their stories.”
Rebecca uses traditional designs and icons with an unrestricted palette to develop a modern interpretation of her traditional culture. “I just love doing painting, the colour, and the patterns! I learnt from my Mum. She painted every day, mixing the paint and making patterns.”
When Rebecca is not painting she likes to look after her three children and take them swimming and cooking kangaroo tail for them. She also likes to go hunting with her family.