Yurpiya Lionel

Yurpiya Lionel

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DOB: circa 1960
Born: Donald's Well, Yunyarinyi SA
LANGUAGE: Pitjantjatjara
COMMUNITY: Ernabella, SA

Yurpiya Lionel was born at the homeland Donald's Well, near Yunyarinyi (Kenmore Park) in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands of South Australia. It is roughly 36km east of Pukatja (Enrabella), which is the largest community on the APY Lands and home to Australia's oldest, continually running Indigenous Art Centre, Ernabella Arts. Yurpiya's mother, Pantjiti Lionel, is a very senior Pitjantjatjara woman and artist, well known as an innovative fibre artist and painter.

Yurpiya’s family lived in Ernabella where she attended school. She has worked at the Ernabella childcare centre and at the Ernabella store. In 2004 Yurpiya started to paint at Ernabella Arts, where she initially portrayed literal imagery of flowers, animals, insects and bush tucker. Over the years Yuripiya has also become a very accomplished fibre sculptor and weaver like her mother, using native grass and raffia to make baskets, animals and even vehicles.

Recently Yurpiya has begun to experiment with abstract mark making, and her novel depictions of 'Anumara' have caught the attention of the art world. Anumara is a place near Irrunytju (Wingellina) in WA, which is Yurpiya's family's country. Anumara is also the name for a kind of caterpillar, and Anumara is the tjukurpa (dreaming) place for this caterpillar.

In 2015 Yurpiya was a finalist in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards (NATSIAA) and in 2018 she was also a finalist in the Wynne Prize. Yurpiya described her Wynne Prize artwork:

"When I am painting, I am thinking like the caterpillars; I am thinking about my family's country. I am creating anumara tjina tjuta (many tracks), like they are crawling, crawling. I am painting this country and this tjukurpa to keep it safe and strong. This is how my people care for our places and our stories."

Yurpiya has three children and several grandchildren. Her daughters Rachel and Alison Lionel are emerging painters and ceramic artists. In 2017 she exhibited alongside her two daughters and her mother in 'The Lionel Family - Tjukurpa Titutjura Kunpu Ngaranytjaku (Keeping Our Tjukurpa Strong Forever)' .


  • Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  • University Of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW

Awards and Recognitions

2020 Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney - Finalist
2018 Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney - Finalist
2016 33rd NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
2015 32nd NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
2009 Robbie Beard Hand SPun Prize, Alice Springs Beanie Festival - Runner Up,
2007 Alice Springs Beanie Festival, Araluen Cultural Precinct, Alice
Springs, Special Mention


Selected Group Exhibitions

2019 Salon des Refuses of the NATSIAA, Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, Darwin
2018 Sabbia Gallery at Carriageworks, Syndey Contemporary, Sydney
2018 Desert Mob 2018, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs
2017 Nyuyuntjaku - Keeping the Fire Alive: New Paintings and Ceramics by the Artists of Ernabella Arts, Harvey Arts, USA
2017 In These Hands: Mara Nyangangka, Strut Gallery, Mittagong, NSW
2017 Desert Mob 2017, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
2017 Spirited - Kurunitja, Short St Gallery, Broome
2017 The Lionel Family: Tjukurpa tititjura ngaranyjaku - Keeping our Tjukurpa Strong forever, Turnbridge Gallery, Subiaco, WA
2017 Inuntjii - Regeneration, Aboriginal Signature, Estrangin Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
2017 Nganampa Kililpi Kuwartija Tjuta pakani: Our Rising Stars II, Hazelhurst Regional Community Gallery, NSW
2017 Relative Colours - Aboriginal Contemporary, Sydney, NSW
2016 Inheritance, Salt Contemporary, Queenscliff, VIC
2016 Desert Mob, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
2016 Tradition and Innovation, Parcours des Mondes, Paris, France
2016 Kuwaritja: APY kakarara guru - New work from the Eastern APY Lands, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
2016 The Blooming Desert - Talapi Gallery, Alice Springs
2015 Tjukurpa Kunpu / Strong Culture: Holiday Show 2015-2016 - Harvey Art Projects, Sun Valley, USA
2015 Artisans in the Gardens - Lion Gate Lodge, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
2015 Desert Mob, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
2015 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Awards, Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, Darwin
2015 Paysages Aborigenes incarnes de l'APY land (Incarnated Aboriginal landscape from the APY lands) - Aboriginal Signature, Brussels, Belgium
2015 Kuruntu mukuringkula kulira palyantja (Stories straight from the heart), Short Street Gallery, Broome
2015 Rising Stars, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
2014 APY 7, Raft ArtSpace, Alice Springs
2014 Desert Mob 2014, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
2014 Pilanypa - Harvey Art Projects, Sun Valley, ID, USA
2014 Desert Colour, Talapai Gallery, Alice Springs
2013 Desert Mob 2013, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs
2013 APY Lands Survey Exhibition, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
2013 Nyinnga (The Cold Time of the Year), Harvey Art Projects, Sun Valley, ID, USA
2013 Putitja, Strathnairn Gallery, Canberra
2013 Australian Vision, NAIDOC 2013 - Australian High Commission, Singapore, in conjunction with Redot Gallery, Singapore
2012 Kapi Ukalinganyi, Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery, Sydney
2012 Tjukurpa Mulapa (True Stories), Redot Fine Art Gallery, Singapore
2012 Ngapartji Ngapartji, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2012 Tjamuku Kamiku Tjukurpa, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
2011 Tjukurpa nyangatja ngananala unngu ngaranyi, Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Sydney
2011 Ernabella Undiscovered, Tunbridge Gallery, Margaret River
2011 Ngura Kutju, Tjukurpa Pulkatjara, Short St Gallery, Broome
2011 Tjukurpa Irititja, Walka Kuwaritja, Marshall Arts, Adelaide
2011 Ernabella Arts Kuwari - Ernabella Arts Now, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2011 Desert Mob, Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs
2010 Ngura Nganampa tjulpu wirutjara munu kapi wala wirutjara, Outstation Gallery, Darwin
2010 Recent Paintings, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2010 Ara irititja munu ara kuwaritja Ernabella-la, Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
2010 Our Mob, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
2010 Ngura Nganampa (Our Country), JamFactory Contemporary Craft, Adelaide
2009 Anangu Backyard - Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
2008 Nganampa Tjukurpa (Our stories), Indigenart (Mossensson Galleries), Perth
2008 Nganampa warka wiru (Our work is beautiful), Cudgegong Gallery, Gulgong, NSW
2008 Desert Mob (with Tjanpi Desert Weavers), Araluen Cultural Centre, Alice Springs