Tjala – Ronnie Allen


40.6cm x 55.9cm: acrylic on canvas

In stock


40.6cm x 55.9cm: acrylic on canvas

Ronnie Allen

Ronnie Allen is a self-taught artist and a respected elder in the Kaltukatjara (Docker River) community. Ronnie’s family’s country is Kunapula, just south of Kaltukatjara. He has spent much of his life traveling the Western Desert as a Christian Pentecostal pastor.  

Ronnie paints several tjukurpa (dreaming) stories including tingarri (ceremony), mulga seed, maku (witchetty grub) and tjala (honey ant). He also paints a unique fusion of tjukurpa with Pentecostal imagery, in which he depicts Yarnangu and Western people holding gatherings. These gatherings play host to ceremonial dances, religious worship, and moral discussions.  

As such, Ronnie’s work visualises elements of the relationship between Yarnangu and Christian belief systems, stemming from the influence of Christian missionaries in recent history. Ronnie draws together these two worlds in a celebration of community and faith. Through Ronnie’s work, we can see that the interplay between Yarnangu and Christian spirituality has become an indelible aspect of community history and identity. 


This artwork represents tjala tjukurpa (honey ant dreaming). Tjala tjukurpa is a far-reaching story that traverses country in a loop, beginning and ending in South Australia.

From South Australia, the honey ant travels north to Kunapula outstation, near Kaltukatjara (Docker River). Kunapula is Ronnie Allen’s family’s country and the place where he spent his youth. He had many relatives there. Because tjala tjukurpa passes through his country, Ronnie has become a custodian of this important story.

The honey ant, whose name is Putarti, travels from Kunapula to Walka, where there is a honey ant cave and plenty of malu (kangaroos). Putarti then travels under the ground northeast to Papunya, where the story intersects with Pintupi and Arrernte language groups. Ronnie explains, “The honey ant is very smart. He went underground. But there was no rain, so there was no soil in the ground. You can still see him in the big rock at Papunya.”

From Papunya, the honey ant returns south once more, where the story passes into the custodianship of “another mob in South Australia. “It is their story now,” says Ronnie.