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Tjunkiya Napaltjarri

BORN: circa 1927 - 2009 (deceased).


Tjunkiya was born around 1927-1930. A Pintupi speaker, Tjunkiya was born at Kintore, west of Alice Springs, after which her family moved to Haasts Bluff.

She became second wife to Toba Tjakamarra, father of one of the prominent founders of the Papunya Tula art movement, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula.

At Haasts Bluff she had ten children: these included sons Billy Rowe and Riley Rowe, both of whom painted for Papunya Tula, and daughter Mitjili (born c. 1948), who married Long Tom Tjapanangka and went on to paint at Haasts Bluff. From Haasts Bluff the family moved to Papunya and in 1981 to Kintore.

Tjunkiya was the sister of artist Wintjiya Napaltjarri, who was also a wife to Toba. Seriously ill in the mid 1990s, Tjunkiya died in 2009.

Like a number of the other central and western desert women in the region, Tjunkiya was introduced to painting through the Minyma Tjukurrpa (Women's Dreaming) painting project in the mid 1990s. Along with sister Wintjiya and other women, she participated in a painting camp in 1994 which resulted in a series of very large collaborative canvases of the group's shared Dreamings . Western Desert artists such as Tjunkiya frequently paint particular 'dreamings', or stories, for which they have responsibility or rights. In this case, twenty-five women were involved in planning the works, which included three canvases that were 3 metres square, as well as two that were 3 by 1.5 metres, and Tjunkiya and Wintjiya performed a ceremonial dance as part of the preparations. Tjunkiya and her sister were determined to participate in the project despite cataracts interfering with their vision.

In the early 2000s she and her sister painted at Kintore, but in 2008 they were working from their home: "the widows' camp ouside her 'son' Turkey Tolson's former residence". Tjunkiya and her sister Wintjiya did not confine their activities to painting canvases. The National Gallery of Victoria in 2001 purchased a collaborative Batik work, created in 1994 by the sisters in cooperation with several other artists, together with a work completed by Tjunkiya alone. The sisters also worked using drypoint etching, with 2004 a print by Tjunkiya -Rumiya kutjarra #2 - held by the National Gallery of Australia.

Works by Tjunkiya are held in major private collections, such as Nangara (also known as the Ebes Collection). Her work has been acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

In 1996, Tjunkiya was represented in the Papunya Women group exhibition at Utopia Art Gallery in Sydney, while in 2000 she had an exhibition at Melbourne's William Mora Galleries and was included in the Art Gallery of New South Wales' major exhibition, Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius.

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