We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Wanka (Spider)



Harry Tjutjuna


circa 1930 – 2020

Language group: Pitjantjatjara, Southern Desert region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Pukatja (Ernabella) South Australia Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    synthetic polymer paint on canvas
    168.0 x 153.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2012
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Harry Tjutjuna, courtesy Ninuku Arts/Copyright Agency

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Harry Tjutjuna

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Harry Tjutjana is an extremely talented artist whose spontaneous, energetic paintings capture the innovative potential of desert art. Although one of his works is recorded in the Stuart Art Centre Archive from the early 1970s, Tjutjana only began painting consistently in 2005. Since this time he has become one of the most recognised artists of the southern desert region. The powerful art movement currently emerging from this region is an area of focus for the collection.

    'Wanka (Spider)' 2011 is a major work by Tjutjana depicting the powerful spider man, a Ngankari or traditional healer and may be seen as a representation of Tjutjana himself. As Tjutjana states, 'I am the spider man, Ngankari.'This strong assertion of identity evidences Tjutjana's seniority and has led to a significant development in his practice, conceptually and stylistically. The bold colours in layers and overlays in 'Wanka (Spider') 2011 show an enjoyment of the act of painting itself and reveal the innate expertise of Tjutjana as an artist. The art centre documentation for this work states: This is a big spider man. Watipaluru Ngankari (A male healer, traditional doctor). He is a powerful man. When rain comes he hides in his nest. He is a clever man. At night time he changes colour. His name is Wanka, spider. That's the story. Minyma wanka tjuta, these are all the women and the children for this man (around him). I am the spider man, Ngankari.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

Other works by Harry Tjutjuna

See all 8 works