Man painting a replica of the Bush Mechanics Car at Juka Juka, near Yuendumu, NT
Man painting a replica of the Bush Mechanics Car at Juka Juka, near Yuendumu, NT

Francis Jupurrurla Kelly explains the meaning behind the painted lines on the replica Bush Mechanics car that sits at the heart of our new exhibition.

David Batty and Francis Jupurrurla Kelly’s Bush Mechanics (2001) only ran for one season, but it became a cult classic and spawned short films, museum exhibitions and even a videogame. This Warlpiri-language miniseries owes its popularity to its distinctive cultural world of Warlpiri humour, music and experience, where nyurulypa (good tricks) are used to keep wrecked cars on the red-sand roads of outback Australia.

The cast use mulga wood, spinifex and clever hacks to showcase their ingenious approach to mechanics. Demonstrating this winning combination of Warlpiri and car culture, 'Ngapa Jukuurpa' ('Water Dreaming') is painted on an old Ford ZF Fairlane in the series’ final episode.

In this video Francis talks about the process of creating a painted replica of the famous car, which now resides (at least one half of it does) at Fed Square, Melbourne – over 2,500 kilometres away from the filming location of Juka Juka, near Yuendumu, NT – in The Story of the Moving Image, ACMI's new centrepiece exhibition.


We longa west of Yuendumu, place called Juka Juka. Rainmaking dreaming. That rain travelled from east to west. We didn't have rain for three years. We went to Broome, grabbed the pearl shell from them, came back and we had two weeks rain. Solid two weeks rain in Yuendumu, not only Yuendumu but all over Northern Territory.

This motor car here, Ford Fairlane, we painting same similar to that first one we painted here we did it this one on Bush Mechanics. The same thing we did it here, rainmaking car, like ceremony how we paint people. This one [pointing to Thomas Jangala Rice], paint this one and I help him out a little bit.

This one will end up somewhere in the city where people don't know about these kind of stories about these paintings. We tell them this one now.

This one here are those rocks sticking up [pointing to the surrounding Juka Juka rock formation]. This one it makes cloud, traveling cloud all around here. This footprint is called grey falcon, that bird grey falcon but we call them in our language 'wiiny-wiinypa'. All along represented rain dreaming. Wherever you're going you do this one and you'll have rain.

I hope you mob enjoy this painting and this car. This car represents rain wherever you go you do this one and you'll have rain.

Explore the cult TV series 'Bush Mechanics'

See the car in our new centrepiece exhbition