For thousands of years the Warlpiri people traced their
Dreaming symbols onto compacted desert sand as part of
their ceremonies and when the ceremonies were over the
images would be brushed away by hand or by the desert
winds. The Yuendumu doors have now captured these stories
Door number 4 (right) was painted by Paddy Japaljarri
Sims and shows the story of old Dreamtime men preparing
their boomerangs for battle. The shapes in the lower half
depict axes and boomerangs, while in the upper half there
are boomerangs, waterhole, snake and tracks of a falcon.
As the old men hit each other with boomerangs, they turned
into birds like falcons, hawks and kites and flew into
the air. These are the birds that still appear in the
During the early 1980s much of the traditional country
of Warlpiri people was only just becoming accessible to
them again through the land rights process. By painting
the Doors, the artists were expressing not only their
link to that country but also their willingness to resume
responsibility for those places.
The painted Doors were also intended to remind the Yuendumu
schoolchildren of a web of sites and obligations extending
across their country. The Doors remained at Yuendumu,
resisting erasure for twelve years despite the desert
wind and sun, and robust treatment from Warlpiri schoolchildren.