Your artworks
  • Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
  • Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
  • Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
  • Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm
Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm

Mitjili Napurrula, Uwulkari - Watiya Tjuta, 60x60cm

$1,129.00
  • Aboriginal Artist - Mitjili Napurrula
  • Community - Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) 
  • Aboriginal Art Centre - Ikuntji Artists
  • Catalogue number - 19/MN41
  • Materials - Acrylic on canvas  
  • Size(cm) - H60 W60 D2  
  • Postage variants - Artwork posted un-stretched and rolled for safe shipping
  • Orientation - Painted from all sides and OK to hang as wished

Mitjili paints her fathers Tjukurrpa, the ceremonial spear straightening in Uwalkari country (Gibson desert region). The Watiya Tjuta (Acacia Trees) are the trees that are used to make these spears. Uwalkari country is abundant with Watiya Tjuta, as well as sand hills and other plants. Mitjili paints the motif of the Watiya Tjuta, carrying on the recurring motif as her mother used to draw in the sand. Her mother passed on this Dreaming to her. Napurrula's father, Tupa Tjakamarra gave her the right to paint works related to Ilyingaungau in the Gibson Desert. This site, south of Walungurru (Kintore), some 520 kilometres west of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), is where the artist’s Mutikatjirri ancestors assembled their kulata (spears) for a conflict with the Tjukula men. Allusive works that refer to the straightening of kulata by Tjupurrula are among the landmark paintings of the Ikuntji Artists movement’s 30-year history. The paintings of Napurrula and her husband, Long Tom Tjapanangka, have come to be understood as archetypical of Ikuntji art since they began to work with the arts centre in 1993. Napurrula remembers, ‘ ... After I got married, my mother taught me my father’s Tjukurrpa in the sand, that’s what I’m painting on the canvas’. The white pigment eddies around abstract forms that refer to the spearwood trees. The lightly structured patterning of the key motifs and bold use of colour demonstrates the artist’s confidence in her individual artistic vision
within a family of superlative artists – and the cultural heritage that continues to inform the myriad expressions of Western Desert artists.

Mitjili Napurrula was born in 1945 at Papunya, 200 kilometres West of Alice Springs. She is the daughter of Tupa Tjakamarra (now deceased) and Tjunkiya Napatljarri. Her mother, Tjunkayi Napaltjarri, was a Pintupi/Luritja woman from Yumari who also became an artist of public repute. Her mother ‘came in’ from the drought-stricken Pintupi/Lurjita country seeking refuge and rations in the remote community of Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji). Along with her extended family, she was settled at Papunya, where Mitjili was born.

Dispossession and drought were only two of the factors that led to a series of migrations from the desert to mission or government settlements in the mid-twentieth century. Following the outstation movement of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Aboriginal communities sprang up throughout the region, each home to a distinctive art movement.

Like many of her generation, Mitjili witnessed the genesis of the Papunya Tula art movement and the artistic contribution made by members of her immediate family. Mitjili’s brother, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, was one of the founding members of the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative.

Mitjili grew up in Papunya and moved to Haasts Bluff with her late husband Long Tom Tjapanangka in the late 1980’s during the outstation movement.  The couple started painting at Ikuntji in 1992 with the opening of Ikuntji Women’s Centre, both contributing significantly to the emerging art movement there. She gained an international following after winning the Alice Springs Art Prize in 1999.

In Mitjili’s winning painting, Untitled (1999), coagulated white pigment eddies around abstract forms that refer to the Watiya Tjuta (desert oak/spearwood trees) used to make kulatas (spears). The tightly structured patterning of the key motifs and bold use of colour demonstrates the artist’s confidence in her individual artistic vision within a family of superlative artists – and the cultural heritage that continues to inform the myriad expressions of Western Desert artists.

The Watiya Tjuta in Mitjili’s paintings is her father’s Tjukurrpa (dreaming) in Ilyingaungau country (Gibson Desert). This was passed down to her by her mother; she remembers  “…After I got married, my mother taught me my father’s Tjukurrpa in the sand, that’s what I’m painting on the canvas”, a women’s interpretation.

Mitjili and her brother, Tjupurrula had the same father, Tupa Tjakamarra, from whom they both inherited the right to paint works related to Ilyingaungau. This site, south of Walungurru (Kintore), some 520 kilometres west of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), is where the artist’s Mutikatjirri ancestors assembled their kulata (spears) for a conflict with the Tjukula men. Allusive works that refer to the straightening of kulata by Tjupurrula are among the landmark paintings of the movement’s history.

Mitjili lived at an outstation close to Papunya where she continued to paint for Ikuntji Artists until April 2019, along side her family and fellow artists such as Ann Lane nee Dixon. 

A lot of stories are still being recounted of long journeys of people from various language groups, who travelled from rockholes and waterholes to caves and mountains finally arriving at Haasts Bluff. The locals, Luritja people of Haasts Bluff, were already here. Thus Haasts Bluff is a community rich of diversity in language and culture.

Ikuntji Artists was first established in 1992, after a series of workshops with Melbourne artist Marina Strocchi, and under the influence of the then community president, the late Esther Jugadai. The art centre was initially set up to fulfil the role of women’s centre providing services such as catering for old people and children in the community. After first experiences made in printing T-shirts, the artists began producing acrylic paintings on linen and handmade paper, which quickly gained the attention of the Australian and international art world as well as earning the centre an impressive reputation for fine art. The focus changed from a women’s centre to an art centre in 2005 with the incorporation of the art centre as Ikuntji Artists Aboriginal Corporation.

The artists draw their inspiration from their personal ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). They interpret the ancestral stories by using traditional symbols, icons and motifs. The artistic repertoire of Ikuntji Artists is diverse and includes for example: naive as well as highly abstract paintings told by each artist in their personal signature style. Throughout the 21 years of its existence the art movement in Ikuntji has flourished and constantly left its mark in the fine art world. At the same time the art centre has been the cultural hub of the community, maintaining, reinforcing and reinvigorating cultural practices through art-making.

Today Ikuntji Artists has eight key artists, who exhibit in Australia and internationally. They are represented in major collections across the globe.

Text: Melanie Greiner, Alison Multa and Dr Chrischona Schmidt 




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