As a young child Linda Syddick Napaltjarri walked on an epic journey with her family from the traditional Pintupi homelands in the Gibson Desert near Lake McKay to the settlements on the eastern edge of the desert. Many other families had left the desert during the 1940s and made their first contact with missions and government ration stations far away from ancestral lands.
When the small nomadic clan first came into the settlement at Mt Liebig in 1945 they had with them a Nangkari or witch doctor, who on first seeing a windmill took it to be an evil spirit and attacked it with his magic. Linda’s second father, Shorty Langkata was also a powerful man in traditional Pintupi life. He was the owner of many Dreaming stories, and was also a Magic man trained to communicate with the spirit world.
Unlike the rest of his family, Langkata had some knowledge of the whitefella world, having worked with the army during the War. He was the only one who had seen a windmill, and he knew what it was used for. Shorty explained to them what it was. “This is a whitefella thing, used for getting water up from under the ground. See that pond over there, that is good water for us to drink.”
In 1985, just before Shorty Lankata died he told Linda Syddick that she was to carry on his work and to continue to paint his Tjukurrpa or Dreamings. So in 1986 Linda Syddick Napaltjarri was taught to paint by her two Uncles Uta Uta Tjangala and Nosepeg Tjupurrula, both significant figures in the Papunya Desert art movement.
Linda Syddick Napaltjarri regularly paints Dreaming stories related to the Tingari and the Emu Men. The Emu Men were Creation Ancestors who travelled the country during the Tingari or Dreaming era. Linda Syddick mostly paints the country in the area near Lake MacKay, which has been an important site for Pintupi cultural and spiritual life for millennia. It was at Lake MacKay that Linda was born and roamed about in her early years. Many paintings represent topographical maps where major Tingari events occurred – significant metaphysical stories blended with the artist’s own ever- present memories of life in the Gibson Desert. Linda Syddick often incorporates many perspectives and stories into a single painting.
Linda Syddick Napaltjarri is represented in major national and state galleries including National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of NSW, Berndt Museum of Anthropology and Kelton Foundation, as well as major private collections.