Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri

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Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (b.c.1926 at Marnpi southeast of Kintore, Northern Territory), is one of the most important painters to emerge from the Western Desert since 1971.

From the Pintupi language group, Mick lived in the bush (sandhills and acacia shrub country) with his two sisters, grandmother, and parents. His father went out hunting one day and when he didn’t return, the family found him speared in the back by “a revenge party”. Out of grief, his grandmother built a fire and threw herself on it. Although Mick tried to pull her out, it was too late. It was the 1920s and Mick was 7 or 8 years old but we will never know for sure. He said, “We didn’t know about years then.”

Mick’s mother became the 4th wife of a man named Kamatu, one of the leading Pintupi men in the region, who adopted Mick and his sisters. Mick went through initiation and became an important member of his community. When Haasts Bluff became a cattle station, he went to work in the industry, working for a stockman named “McNamara”. Thus he became “Mick Namarari”.[citation needed]

In the early 1960s, he was removed to Papunya and became one of its original painters when Geoff Bardon arrived. He was the subject of Geoff Bardon's documentary film, Mick and the Moon. Family Moon Dreaming, a painting in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, UVA, was created for Geoff Bardon’s documentary.

Mick Namarari was one of the foundation artists of the movement that emerged in Papunya Tula. White school teacher Geoffrey Bardon considered him one of eight artists whose efforts at the foundation of the movement were particularly interesting. The others were Old Walter Tjampitjinpa, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri, Tim Payungka Tjapangati, Charlie Tarawa Tjungurrayi and Johnny Warrangkula Tjupurrula.[1]

Paintings on art board are the artist’s earliest works. Compared to his later works, the early works are brighter colors with a larger variety of details. Orange was used by many of the artists because that is the color of the countryside. When the sun sets and hits the sand, it is as orange as the paintings depict. More subdued colors began being used when an art marketer suggested the paintings would sell better that way.

From early figurative works, he moved on to creating large geometric designs that typified Papunya Tula art in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the 1990s he began producing "minimalist" paintings that depicted the imprint of a kangaroo in the sand, the seeds that the marsupial mouse feeds upon, or the aftermath of hailstorms in the desert.

He died in Alice Springs in 1998, survived by his wife Elizabeth Nakamarra Marks and his daughter Angeline Nungurrayi.


  1. ^ Bardon 1999, p. 47.


  • Bardon, Geoffrey (1999). Papunya Tula: Art of the Western Desert. Adelaide: J.B. Books. ISBN 0958699860.