Born: Donald's Well, Yunyarinyi SA
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)' .