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Film Completed   /  Robert Hamilton

The Witchdoctor and the Windmill

The last senior Pintupi female artist of her era uses her art to look back on her memories of the coming in period.


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Michael Hobbs

  • PRODUCER Simon Davis, Robert Hamilton, Linda Syddick Napaltjarri



“The Witchdoctor and the Windmill” explores the life of the Pintupi artist, Linda Syddick Napaltjarri.

After her father’s death in a revenge spearing, Linda came in from the Pintupi homelands and was taught to paint by her adoptive father, Shorty Tjungurray.

Her insistence she had Shorty’s permission to paint his stories cast her as a maverick and led to a rift between family and community.

This narrative documentary explores the personal and community struggles and larger themes of colliding cultures as the Pintupi confronted new and bewildering intrusions into country; atomic testing, art as gestalt for grief, fractured families, and loss of country.

Her painting is a visual record of first contact in the 1940s as the Pintupi began their first encounters with White Australia.

As the first Pintupi Modernist and last senior female artist of her era, Linda’s stories are unique portable heritage of our national memory and signal the dynamic nature of the Dreaming.

Support this project

46.83% funded
  • $30,000.00

  • $14,050.00

  • October 2021

  • 27

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Stuart Brady $500.00
Carolyn Brady $200.00
Tracey Carpenter $100.00
Dennis Moore $50.00
Stuart Brady $300.00
Roslyn Premont $1,000.00
Tony Edwards $100.00
Julieta Locane $50.00
Gabriela Toth $100.00
Emma Funnell $300.00
Fred Myers $100.00
Jessica Kovacic $100.00
Sapana Ramjali $50.00
Jenny Baker $50.00
Lauren McDonald $100.00
Steven Collins $50.00
Andrea Banicevic $100.00
Richard Wickman $50.00
Anonymous $10,000.00
Francine Courteille $50.00
Stuart & Kacee Brady $200.00
Gina Davis $100.00
Marcus Saunders $100.00
Tara Green $50.00
Minna Davis $100.00
John Hughes $100.00
Anonymous $50.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Until recently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history of art had been under-represented in the public sphere. As Franchesca Cubillo, Senior Curator Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia puts it, Linda Syddick has a life experience that very few of us would come to know or understand. This film is a cross-cultural project which brings Linda’s art and life story to that public space by giving voice to those who experienced lives affected by family separation, geographic and cultural displacement and trauma. “The Witchdoctor and the Windmill” demonstrates the importance to the national narrative, of documenting and negotiating liminal moments from the era of early European incursions into Pintupi country. It is also an exercise in ‘truth telling’, which reveals the diverse events which took Linda’s art from the painting sheds of Alice Springs to the Musée du quai Branly.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The film will initiate interest, promote awareness, and enliven curiosity to achieve a better-informed public. Linda’s art and stories of traditional life on Pintupi homelands and the coming in period hold powerful personal meanings for individuals, families, and communities across all sides of the inter-cultural frontier. By engaging audiences emotionally with Linda’s story we seek to provoke a dialogue with a more nuanced understanding of the incorporation of these events in the Dreaming.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We are acutely aware of the importance of recording and preserving Linda's stories in language and others with intimate first-hand knowledge of this period while we still can. We will discuss with ACARA what works, so we can provide useful TAL resources on an iterative basis. Our focus is also on having this film accepted in Australian and global film festivals. This story should attract national interest through its incorporation as a learning resource across multiple KLAs in secondary schools within the revised national curriculum framework developed by the ACARA. Study within schools and school communities will initiate and promote ongoing discussion and application of the underlying importance of the two-toolbox approach for co-producing knowledge and understanding of the issues. Longer-term outcomes include broader and better-informed debate so audiences from all walks of life will have an active role as contributors to a national and global discourse.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

For audiences to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art with a new interest and understanding and come away with an enhanced empathy for the complexities of the first contacts between the Pintupi people and White Australia, and more broadly, the contested history of the colonial frontier.

To motivate viewers to become involved as advocates within the Australian community to make amends for the past and recognise the value and unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, by acknowledging the incorporation of the colonial encounter in the Dreaming.

To contribute to the creation of a paradigm shift in attitudes in schools, workplaces, and the public discourse towards Indigenous Culture, language, and art and acceptance of their value as the unique portable heritage of our national memory with an equal place at the table of the national narrative.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

The film is at completion stage as an independent film rather than a sponsored work.
We have productive relationships with family and colleagues who have supported the project. We enjoy ongoing relations and have consulted with: the National Association for the Visual Arts and Australia Council, National Gallery of Australia; Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority; Central Land Council, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; Ikuntji Artists and Japingka Gallery. Formal legal support is via Frankel Lawyers & Terri Janke & Company. All parties have assisted us with counsel, expertise, some in-kind resources, and encouragement to create a film that will enable audiences to experience, engage with, and be transformed by Linda’s art and life story, and contribute to the [re]shaping of the national narrative.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The film will invite and encourage collaboration between generations to share their art, music, and stories and draw inspiration and confidence from each other. It is hoped that audiences will be stimulated to ask questions and not accept the answers uncritically. They may explore, revisit, and examine more closely the policies, events, and testimonies of contested areas of the colonial encounter and coming in period within the framework of this work of living history. It is hoped audiences will feel confident to discuss the film with others and be alerted to and curious about the two-toolbox approach for co-producing knowledge and understanding so they accept their agency and advocacy has an impact on relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Audiences may wish to take direct action in support of advancing the causes and case for the recognition of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and truth telling.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We anticipate longevity for the film in the public space and in education markets particularly uptake in the Australian secondary and tertiary sectors. We will have succeeded when the film reaches a global audience through education, film festivals, event-based screenings, and online platforms and continues to attract screenings into the future. We hope the film promotes further research and study and that Linda’s unconventional methods as an artist will inspire others to follow their own voice and venture into the world to teach and learn and give back to the people and communities they encounter, as Linda has. Throughout our social media campaign, via Streem Media Monitoring, we will measure success metrics such as awareness and attitudinal shifts by content analyses of social media, in community screenings and through attention devoted to the film's issues in the mainstream media in Australia and other nations and make modifications to reach exposure to the widest possible audience.