Mbantua Gallery History

Mbantua Store

Mbantua Gallery first began as Mbantua Store under Tim Jennings in July 1986. It was located at 55 Gap Road in Alice Springs and was a general store that was first set up in the 1950's by the Finke River Mission. The store sold groceries, hardware and clothing. It also had a small Aboriginal art section where artists brought in their art and sold to the store.

Run by the Mission for many, many years and it was affectionately known as 'Mission Block' by it's customers. Around 1982 the Mission decided to sell the business (although not the real estate) and the store manager at the time bought it before onselling in 1986 to Tim.

In the early days the focus was on the general store side of the business however the art was an interesting sideline. The close affiliation the store had with the Aboriginal people, the long history with the art and the increased demand for and production of the art all helped to turn Mbantua Store into Mbantua Gallery.

The Bush Truck

In the early days the Mbantua general store catered to the Aboriginal population and mainly to the community of Utopia, about 250kms northeast of Alice Springs. Utopia can only be accessed by a very rough, dirt road called the Sandover Highway which takes about 2 hours to reach. In heavy rain this road would be flooded and the community unable to get to town.

Thus the big 'bush truck' was incorporated into the Mbantua Store business. It would go to the community once a fortnight bringing food, clothes, medicines, toiletries and even washing machines, stoves and all manner of furniture to the residents of Utopia. The community knew when the bush truck was due to come and often would call and put in orders for all kinds of necessities to be brought out to them. Sometimes it was just too difficult to get to town!

Through this bush truck venture Tim met and made friends with many of the local Utopian Aboriginal people. They took him into their homes and showed him their art, introduced him to their stories and way of life. This was the beginning of Tim's journey into Aboriginal art which has now spanned over 30 years. Through the store and the bush truck Tim has met and become good friends with many world renowned Utopian artists including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Barbara Weir, Gloria Tamerre Petyarre, Greeny Purvis, Minnie Pwerle as well as many others.

Mbantua Gallery

You can use this widget to input arbitrary HTML code into the page. Invalid HTML code may cause issues with the preview pane.