Eileen Napaltjarri

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Eileen Napaltjarri
Born 1956 (1956)
Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia
Nationality Australian
Known for Painting

Eileen Napaltjarri (born 1956) is a Pintupi-speaking indigenous artist from Australia's Western Desert region. Eileen Napaltjarri, also known as Anyima Napaltjarri or Nanyuma Napaltjarri, began painting for Papunya Tula artists' cooperative in 1996. She was named as one of Australian Art Collector magazine's 50 Most Collectible artists in 2008; her works are held by the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Daytime landscape photo, showing a range of hills with the nearest rising to a rocky red peak, below a blue sky with a few white strings of cloud, and above the tops of eucalyptus trees.
Haasts Bluff, where Napaltjarri was born

Born at Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory in 1956,[1] daughter of Charlie Tarawa Tjungurrayi (aka Charlie Tararu Tjungurayi),[2] one of the founding members of Papunya Tula Artists, and Tatali Nangala, Eileen was the only one of seven siblings to follow her parents' advice and take up painting. She was reportedly the only one still alive by 2008.[3][notes 1]

Marriage discrepancies[edit]

In 2008, researcher Vivien Johnson reported that she married Puuna Tjakamarra, and had two children, William Tjupurrula and Sharon Napurrula, as well as an adopted son, Jeffrey.[3] However, journalist Nicolas Rothwell in 2006 stated that Napaltjarri's husband was named Kenny Williams Tjampitjinpa.[6]



Contemporary indigenous art of the western desert began in 1971 when indigenous men at Papunya created murals and canvases using western art materials, assisted by teacher Geoffrey Bardon.[7] Their work, which used acrylic paints to create designs representing body painting and ground sculptures, rapidly spread across indigenous communities of central Australia, particularly following the commencement of a government-sanctioned art program in central Australia in 1983.[8] By the 1980s and 1990s, such work was being exhibited internationally.[9] The first artists, including all of the founders of the Papunya Tula artists' company, had been men, and there was resistance amongst the Pintupi men of central Australia to women painting.[10] However, there was also a desire amongst many of the women to participate, and in the 1990s large numbers of them began to create paintings. In the western desert communities such as Kintore, Yuendumu, Balgo, and on the outstations, people were beginning to create art works expressly for exhibition and sale.[9]


She first began painting in 1996, aged 40, for Papunya Tula, of which her father had been one of the founders in the early 1970s.[3] Sources differ on when her work for Papunya Tula became regular, with Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi placing this at 1999,[11] while Vivien Johnson, in her survey Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists, suggests 2002.[3] As of 2010, Napaltjarri had held two solo exhibitions, the second at Utopia Art Sydney.[2]

Napaltjarri won the "emerging artist" category of the Redlands Westpac Art Prize in 2005.[3] In 2006, journalist and writer Nicolas Rothwell named her as the successor to Papunya Tula's most significant founding women: Makinti Napanangka, Wintjiya Napaltjarri and Tjunkiya Napaltjarri.[6] Australian Art Collector magazine, in its annual survey of Australian art, included Napaltjarri in its 50 Most Collectable Artists for 2008.[12] Works by Napaltjarri are held by the Art Gallery of New Wales,[1] and the National Gallery of Australia.[3]

Napaltjarri paints sites associated with both her mother's country around Kintore, Northern Territory, and her father's country, Tjitururrnga (or Tjiturrulpa),[2] to the west of Kintore.[3]



  1. ^ 'Napaljarri' (in Warlpiri) or 'Napaltjarri' (in Western Desert dialects) is a skin name, one of sixteen used to denote the subsections or subgroups in the kinship system of central Australian indigenous people. These names define kinship relationships that influence preferred marriage partners and may be associated with particular totems. Although they may be used as terms of address, they are not surnames in the sense used by Europeans.[4][5] Thus 'Eileen' is the element of the artist's name that is specifically hers.


  1. ^ a b "Eileen Napaltjarri – Untitled (Tjiturrulpa)". Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: Paintings. Art Gallery of New South Wales. 1995. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  2. ^ a b c "Papunya Tula Artists – News". Papunya Tula Artists. 2010. Archived from the original on 14 January 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Johnson, Vivien (2008). Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Alice Springs, NT: IAD Press. p. 297. 
  4. ^ "Kinship and skin names". People and culture. Central Land Council. Archived from the original on 2010-10-12. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  5. ^ De Brabander, Dallas (1994). "Sections". In David Horton. Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. 2. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. p. 977. ISBN 978-0-85575-234-7. 
  6. ^ a b Rothwell, Nicolas (28 November 2006). "Decade of sunshine and tears". The Australian. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  7. ^ Bardon, Geoffrey; James Bardon (2006). Papunya – A place made after the story: The beginnings of the Western Desert painting movement. University of Melbourne: Miegunyah Press. 
  8. ^ Dussart, Francoise (2006). "Canvassing identities: reflecting on the acrylic art movement in an Australian Aboriginal settlement". Aboriginal History. 30: 156–168. 
  9. ^ a b Morphy, Howard (1999). Aboriginal Art. London: Phaidon. pp. 261–316. 
  10. ^ Strocchi, Marina (2006). "Minyma Tjukurrpa: Kintore / Haasts Bluff Canvas Project: Dancing women to famous painters". Artlink Magazine. 26 (4). 
  11. ^ "Artists: Eileen Napaltjarri". Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. Archived from the original on 2009-09-14. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  12. ^ "50 of Australia's Most Collectable Artists". Australian Art Collector (43). Jan–Mar 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-09-24.