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Kunmanara (Ngupulya) Pumani

b. 1948

d. 2019

"Munu nganana dreaming tjuta nintilpai, ka tjana nintilpai titji tjuta nintilpai, nyangatja Dreaming, nyura ngula atunymananma. Ngura nyangtja Dreaming pulka mulapa nyurampa: malatja malatja malatja malatja malatja nyrurampa – keep on going – mapitjantjaku.


And we teach about Tjukurpa, and the children learn, later on into the future you will look after it and keep on looking after it. This place has a very big dreaming, your dreaming: and for generation, after generation, after generation, after generation, after generation it will be yours – it will keep on going – it will go out and onwards."

(Kunmanara Pumani, 2019)


Mrs Pumani was a cultural leader of remarkable strengths, beauty and compassion. She was one of the women without whom the art centre movement would not have become what it is today. She was a teacher, and leader, for Anangu and piranpa (white-fellas) alike. Alongside her mother and sister, she created the very foundations on which Mimili Maku Arts continues to grow. As our chairperson for a great number of years, she radiated cultural authority deeply rooted in her family’s connection to the land upon which Mimili was built.


Mrs Pumani was an incredibly generous and empathic leader, who led from the heart, and always cared for others first. She grew up on Everard Park Station, where she worked for many years before the APY Land Rights Act in 1981. Alongside her sister, Kunmanara started the first pre-school in Indulkana and Mimili, worked at the Mimili Clinic and Mimili Anangu School, before deciding to share her knowledge and stories through art.


Throughout her career she found ways to connect her passions of art, teaching and mentorship, working with school groups, leading bush trips for artists and kids, and developing a digital Yankunytjatjara language maintenance project.


Kunmanara’s presence commanded any room, demanding highest respect whilst at the same time creating a safe space that allowed for the ongoing and necessary processes of cultural learning and understanding. She was generous and patient in the way she chose to share her knowledge. Until the end, Kunmanara carried herself in the profound knowledge that she was one of the great keepers of Tjukurpa for Mimili and Antara. She dedicated the last weeks of her life to the maintenance of cultural protocol, and teaching the next generation.

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