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BORN: Haasts Bluff, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Pintupi
COMMUNITY: Haasts Bluff, NT
Mitjili Napurrula is a Pintupi woman born at Haasts Bluff around 1945. Her family is one of great importance in the Aboriginal community of Papunya. Her mother is Tjunkayi Napaltjarri, a well known artist who was involved in the ‘Minyma Tjukurrpa Project’ and consequently became one of the principal women painters at Kintore. Her brother is the late chairman of Papunya Tula Artists, Turkey Tolson, who is also renowned for his artworks which are sought by investors all over the world. Mitjili was married to artist Long Tom Tjapanangka. Long Tom won the prestigious 1999 Telstra Art Award and also gave her the motif of the Irantji ranges she incorporates in her latter paintings. Mitjili’s sister is Wintjiya Napaltjarri and wife to Turkey Tolsen’s father, Tupa.
She first began painting in 1993 for the Ikuntji Women’s Centre. Mitjili paints the female side to her father’s Dreaming, which is the story of the spear straightening ceremony as taught to her by her mother. Mitjili also paints the topography of her father’s country Uwalki, with its pristine sand hills, shrubs and Watiya which are the trees that traditionally provide wood for spears.
The most prominent theme in Mitjili’s painting concerns the watiya tjuta (Acacia trees) which relate to men’s business and her recurring tree motif is based on patterns her mother used to draw in the sand. In her paintings the tree emerges from beneath a veil of diluted paint, applied using the dot-dot technique, giving the impression of solid colour.
Other Dreamings Mitjili has inherited include Wangunu or Portulaca (small black seeds ground and used to make damper), as well as Arkatjirri, a fruit similar to a sultana that is found in the bush. A large body of her work includes vibrant reds, yellows and browns, which serve to communicate the essence of flowers, many of her works being primarily concerned with their representation. Her superb sense for spacing, patterning and colour is distinctively appealing and indicative of her playful manner.
Since she began working with the Ikunti artists she has developed her own strong and distinctive personal style that has gained her acclaim within Australia and internationally. Mitjili’s exhibitions regularly sell out. Her work was included in the exhibition Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco 1999 and featured in the Adelaide Biennial 2000, Beyond the Pale. Her work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and overseas.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2000 Beyond the Pale, Adelaide Festival Exhibition, Art Gallery of South Australia
2000 Ikuntji Tjuta touring exhibition, Regional Galleries of NSW, QLD, SA and NT
1999 Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA
1997 Ikuntji Tjuta in Canberra, Alliance Francaise, ACT
1997 Dreamings: Aboriginal Kunst uit Australie, Netherlands
1997 Aboriginal Art, Goteborgs Konstforening, Sweden
1997 14th National Aboriginal Art Award, NT
1997 28th Alice Prize, Araluen, NT
1997 Mulch & Metaphors: The Garden in Contemporary Art, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, VIC
1996 Heritage Award, ACT
1995 National Aboriginal Art Award, NT
1995 Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs, NT
1994 Australian High Commission and Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore
1999 Alice Prize (Central Australian Art Award), Alice Springs
1997 14th Telstra NATSIAA, finalist
1994 Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs
1993 The Australian Heritage Award, Canberra
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
Edith Cowan University Art Collection, Perth
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin