Behind the Doors Book Launch

05 March 2014

Behind the Doors by Philip Jones

Behind the Doors: An art history from Yuendumu

Philip Jones with Warlukurlangu Artists


Download a PDF of the media release.

The Yuendumu Doors are among the freshest, most remarkable documents of Aboriginal art. Painted thirty years ago at a remote desert school by artists steeped in ritual knowledge, the Doors survived against the odds. After near-obliteration by desert winds, sun, and children’s graffiti, the Doors have been conserved and their powerful designs restored.

Behind the Doors tells the story of these remarkable visual chronicles of Warlpiri country and Dreaming. Author Philip Jones says, “This book illuminates an extraordinary moment in Australian art history, and its aftermath.” 

“ …the Doors can be regarded as one of the strongest and most direct manifestos of Aboriginal art. No art advisers influenced their style or appearance, nor wrote their captions. Instead, we have the artists’ original words reflecting on the Dreamings themselves. Drawing on those unmediated words, and on subsequent conversations with the most prolific Doors artist, the late Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, this book offers a new formulation of the Doors and their significance, and a new contribution to Australian art history.”

Philip Jones is an author and historian based at the South Australian Museum, where he undertakes research on Australian Aboriginal art, history and material culture, and on anthropological, photographic and expeditionary history. He has undertaken fieldwork with Aboriginal people in the Simpson Desert region and, more recently, with Warlpiri people of Yuendumu. His landmark book, Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and encounters on Australian frontiers, won the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-fiction. He has an abiding interest in unlocking the histories of objects and their collectors.

This new publication will be launched at the 2014 Adelaide Writers’ Week on Thursday, 6 March from 5-6pm

Hear Festival Director Laura Kroetsch introduce Philip Jones in this video clip.

The South Australian Museum will hold a special invitation-only event this evening, Wednesday 5 March from 6-7.30pm, to celebrate the release of the book. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing by the author. 

The Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery at the South Australian Museum features a permanent display of Yuendumu Doors. The gallery is open daily and free.


Principal Sponsor, Newmont Asia Pacific

The South Australian Museum Foundation acknowledges the generous support of individual donors to the Yuendumu Doors Appeal.

Published by the South Australian Museum in association with Wakefield Press.

PB 212 PP 265 x 216 FULL COL T/OUT ISBN 9781743052945 Art March $44.95