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In 1971 when Geoffrey Bardon, a young Sydney art teacher, was posted to the government settlement at Papunya he found more than a thousand Aboriginal people living in a state of dislocation and degradation. Bardon was not the first European to show interest in the traditional sand mosaics of these dispossessed people at Papunya, nor the first to recognise them as evidence of a powerful ancient culture. Anthropologists had studied them over many years, but Geoffrey Bardon’s empathy with the artists and his parent tribal elders brought forth revelations in a great surge of creativity hitherto unseen by Europeans. This is a book about the exhilaration and the agony of the early days of the Papunya painting movement. It also provides an essential theoretical and technical framework for an adequate ‘reading’ of the art of the Western Desert. Diagrams are drawn by Judith Ryan, Curator of Aborigianl Art at the national Gallery of Victoria, from sketches and notes made by Geoffrey Bardon and the artists at the time of their miraculous beginnings.