Barbara Pananka (also known as Barbara Nampitjinpa or Barbara Pananka Mbitjana). She grew up in Stirling Station, a cattle station near Tennant Creek where she was schooled by her parents and started painting at a young age, learning from her Mum Topsy Thomson Nabanardi and her Dad George Jungala (both deceased). Barbara worked at the station collecting firewood, ironing clothes and general housekeeping duties for the owners of the station for which she was paid money.
Barbara's husband was the late Douglas Petyarre, whose six sisters – particularly Gloria, Kathleen, and Ada – would eventually become among the most influential artists of the Australian Aboriginal Art Movement. Barbara and Douglas would raise eight children on Country in Utopia – six daughters and two sons – nearly all of whom would become celebrated artists in their own right. Barbara’s six daughters are the ‘Numina Sisters’ – Sharon, Selina, Louise, Caroline, Jacinta, and Lanita – and it was Aunty Gloria, Aunty Kathleen and Aunty Ada who taught their brother's daughters to paint. One of her sons, Paul, was acknowledged very early in his career as being one of the most important young artists of the Utopian Art movement.
In 2008, after Douglas had passed and her children had moved to Darwin to focus on their careers as artists, Barbara moved to Darwin to be closer to her children and, eventually, her grandchildren. As the highly respected matriarch of this incredibly talented family, Barbara paints sacred stories of the women’s ceremonies from the Utopia Aboriginal Lands of the Eastern Desert region, including gathering of bush tucker to share, and ceremonial body painting.