Shorty Robertson Jangala was born around 1925 at Jila (Chilla Well), north west of Yuendumu in the Northern Territory of Australia. He lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle with his parents, older brother and extended Warlpiri family. They travelled vast distances across desert country visiting Jangala’s, his skin brothers. His childhood memories consist of stories associated with the Coniston massacre of Aboriginal people and close to Jila. Shorty had virtually no contact with Western civilization during his youth but remembers leaving Jila for Mt Theo ‘to hide’ from being shot.
His father died at Mt Theo and then with his mother moved to Mt Doreen Station, and subsequently the new settlement of Yuendumu. During World War II, the army took people from Yuendumu to the other Warlpiri settlement at Lajamanu. Shorty was taken and separated from his mother however she came to get him, on foot and together they traveled hundreds of kilometers back to Chilla Well. Drought food and medical supplies forced Shorty and his family back to Yuendumu from time to time. It wasn’t until well after the Central Desert art movement of the 1970s and 1980s that Shorty began to paint.
Shorty’s Dreamings of Ngapa (Water), Watiyawarnu (Acacia), Yankirri (Emu) and Pamapardu (Flying Ant) is vital, yet upholding the Warlpiri tradition. This fledgling artist well in his 70’s is an active member of Warlukurlangu Co-operative. He lives at Yuendumu with his wife and artist Lady Nungarrayi Robertson.