Walangkura Napanangka

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DOB: c.1946 -2014

As one of the last generation to remember a childhood lived in the desert hunting and gathering with her family, Walangkura Napanangka's paintings recall the stories of country and the location of specific sites in her traditional homeland west of the salt lake of Karrkurutinjinya (Lake Macdonald). Born in 1946, at Tjitururrnga west of Kintore, in the remote and arid country between the Northern Territory and Western Australia, she lived with her father Rantji Tjapangati and mother Inyuwa Nampitjinpa and later, while still a teenager, travelled by foot with her family over the hundreds of kilometres from their remote desert home eventually joining Uta Uta Tjangala's group as they walked in to the settlements of Haasts Bluff and then Papunya.

The lure of settlement life with its promise of plentiful food and water belied the harsh conversion they would make to an alien lifestyle with its many problems and unfamiliar demands. The upheaval however, was ameliorated to some degree by the proximity of her immediate family including her mother Inyuwa, adoptive father Tutuma Tjapangati, and sister Pirrmangka Napanangka (now deceased) all of whom became artists.

Relocated to the community of Kintore in 1981 when the outstation movement began Walangkura participated in the historic women's collaborative painting project (1994) that was initiated by the older women as a means of re-affirming their own spiritual and ancestral roots. It was a time of specifically female singing, ceremony and painting, away from the gaze of outsiders and men folk. The huge and colourful canvases that emerged from the women's camp were 'alive with the ritual excitement and narrative intensity of the occasion' (Johnson 2000: 197). Within a year, Papunya Tula Artists, now established at Kintore, had taken on many of these women as full-time artists, revitalising the company after the deaths of many of the original 'painting men'. While individual women forged their own stylistic trajectory, these paintings were immediately distinguishable from the men's more cerebral and symmetrical style. They radiated an exuberant and vibrant energy, the felt heart-beat of women's affinity to country and spirit.

Walangkura's early works, created from 1996 onward, are characterized by masses of small markings and motifs covering large areas of canvas. Her favorite colour, a deep sandy orange predominates, accentuated against more somber blacks and reds and dusky greens or yellows. More recent works show a gestural quality though still tightly packed with an intensity of geometric line work representing sandhills. In a sense this provides a strong visual and contextual link to the men's linear style as exemplified by the works of George Tjungurayi, Turkey Tolson and Willy Tjungurayi. They are rich with a sense of rhythm and unimpeded movement: they show sandhills, rockholes, journeys and gatherings of ancestral women, the flow of colours in subtle shifts of light. Many of these are monumental works that transmit the confidence of an assured and dynamic creativity. Walangkura transmits the power of the desert, soaked up during her childhood years, and imbues her works with the mystery of a sacred perception.

Walagkura has become one of Papunya Tula's most senior women artists. After the death of her mother Inyuwa and the tragic death of her half sister Pirrmangka in 2001, she moved for a time to Kiwirrkura where she lived with her husband and fellow artist Johnny Yungut Tjupurrula and their six children. Her first solo exhibition was held at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in 2003, and this was followed by another at Utopia Art Sydney in 2004. As her fame spread from this time onward she began painting increasingly for a number of private independent dealers outside of the Papunya Tula company. As a result her works can be seen in a great many galleries and retail shops throughout the country.
Walangkura Napanangka is a formidable artist capable of creating masterpieces on canvases up to three metres in size and many of these, despite their provenance, are likely to become emblematic examples of Pintupi women's art.

Profile References
Johnson, Vivien. 2008. Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Australia. IAD Press.
Perkins, H & Fink, H. 2000. Papunya Tula, Genesis and Genius. Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Ryan, Judith. 2006. "Identity in the Land: Trajectories of Central Desert Art 1971-2006" in Landmarks. Canberra. National Gallery of Australia.

Although she has been showing regularly, Walangkura is, in the opinion of Reg Richardson:
"an artist of stellar quality, destined for the big time. She may already be there."

Her work is held in the National Gallery of Victoria and Artbank collections.
In January 2007, Walangkura Napanangka was included in the Australian Art Collector's list of the 50 most collectable artists for the first time. Her work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Artbank and The Kelton Foundation.

Select Bibliography
Isaacs, J., Spirit Country: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Hardie Grant Books, San Francisco, 1999.
Mellor, D. and Megaw V., Twenty Five Years and Beyond, Papunya Tula Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Flinders Art Museum, Flinders Press, Adelaide, 1999.
Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2000.
Bahr, Elizabeth. The Unseen in Scene, exhibition catalogue, Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany, 2000.
Walangkura Napanangka: Recent Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, 2003.Bardon, Geoffrey; Ryan, Judith; Pizzi, Gabrielle; Stanhope, Zara., Mythology and Reality
Contemporary Aboriginal Desert Art from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, Heidi Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2004.
Dreamscapes-Contemporary Desert Art, exhibition catalogue, Mostings Hus, Frederiksberg, Denmark, 2001.
Scott Livesey Art Dealer, Aboriginal Art 2002, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne, 2002.
Scott Livesey Art Dealer, Aboriginal Art 2003, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne, 2003
Scott Livesey Art Dealer, Masterpieces From The Western Desert, exhibition catalogue, London, 2003


  • Art Gallery of NSW
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • Artbank
  • The Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles, USA
  • Aboriginal Art Museum, The Netherlands
  • Museum and Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
  • Queensland Art Gallery

Awards and Recognition

2007 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine


Selected Exhibitions :

1997 - 2002 Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs 1998 'Sztuka Aborygenow' - (Art of the Aborigines), Warsaw, Poland
1998 The Desert Mob Art Show, Arulen Center, Alice Springs.
1999 Utopia Art Sydney; Flinders University Art Museum
1999 Flinders Art Museum, Flinders University, Adelaide
2000 Pintupi, Alice Springs
2000 Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius at the Art Gallery of NSW
2000 Aboriginal Art, Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany
2000 Genesis And Genius, Art Gallery Of New South Wales, Sydney
2001 Dreamscapes - Contemporary Desert Art, Mostings Hus, Frederiksberg, Denmark
2001 Size Doesn't Matter- Papunya Tula Painting 1997-2001, William Mora Galleries
2002 Melbourne Art Fair
2003 Mythology and Reality, S.H Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2003 Solo Exhibition - Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
2003 Aboriginal Art 2003, Scott Livesey Art Dealer, Melbourne
2003 Recent Paintings By The Women Artists Of Kintore And Kiwirrkura, Gallery Gabrielle
2004 Walankura Napanangka, Utopia Art Society
2004 Pintupi Art 2004
2004 Papunya Tula Artists, Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
2004 Chapman Gallery Canberra; The Inner And The Outer
2004 Melbourne Art Fair 2004
2005 Across Skin - Women Artists of the Western Desert, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2008 - Red Desert Gallery, Eumundi QLD
2019 Defining Tradition: the first wave & its disciples, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney