Mitjili Napurrula

Mitjili Napurrula

Mitjili Napurrula was born in 1945 at Papunya, 200 kilometres West of Alice Springs. She is the daughter of Tupa Tjakamarra (now deceased) and Tjunkiya Napatljarri. Her mother, Tjunkayi Napaltjarri, was a Pintupi/Luritja woman from Yumari who also became an artist of public repute. Her mother ‘came in’ from the drought-stricken Pintupi/Lurjita country seeking refuge and rations in the remote community of Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji). Along with her extended family, she was settled at Papunya, where Mitjili was born.

Dispossession and drought were only two of the factors that led to a series of migrations from the desert to mission or government settlements in the mid-twentieth century. Following the outstation movement of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Aboriginal communities sprang up throughout the region, each home to a distinctive art movement.

Like many of her generation, Mitjili witnessed the genesis of the Papunya Tula art movement and the artistic contribution made by members of her immediate family. Mitjili’s brother, Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, was one of the founding members of the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative.

Mitjili grew up in Papunya and moved to Haasts Bluff with her late husband Long Tom Tjapanangka in the late 1980’s during the outstation movement.  The couple started painting at Ikuntji in 1992 with the opening of Ikuntji Women’s Centre, both contributing significantly to the emerging art movement there. She gained an international following after winning the Alice Springs Art Prize in 1999.

In Mitjili’s winning painting, Untitled (1999), coagulated white pigment eddies around abstract forms that refer to the Watiya Tjuta (desert oak/spearwood trees) used to make kulatas (spears). The tightly structured patterning of the key motifs and bold use of colour demonstrates the artist’s confidence in her individual artistic vision within a family of superlative artists – and the cultural heritage that continues to inform the myriad expressions of Western Desert artists.

The Watiya Tjuta in Mitjili’s paintings is her father’s Tjukurrpa (dreaming) in Ilyingaungau country (Gibson Desert). This was passed down to her by her mother; she remembers  “…After I got married, my mother taught me my father’s Tjukurrpa in the sand, that’s what I’m painting on the canvas”, a women’s interpretation.

Mitjili and her brother, Tjupurrula had the same father, Tupa Tjakamarra, from whom they both inherited the right to paint works related to Ilyingaungau. This site, south of Walungurru (Kintore), some 520 kilometres west of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), is where the artist’s Mutikatjirri ancestors assembled their kulata (spears) for a conflict with the Tjukula men. Allusive works that refer to the straightening of kulata by Tjupurrula are among the landmark paintings of the movement’s history.

Mitjili lived at an outstation close to Papunya where she continued to paint in her later years, along side her family and fellow artists such as Ann Lane nee Dixon. Mitjili passed away in April 2019. 

Luritja

Mount Liebig

Current Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions

Solo

  • 2018
    Watiya Juta | Mitjili Napurrula - Michell Fine Art, Brisbane., 4th – 28th April 2018 A solo exhibition showcasing Aboriginal artworks that portray stories relating to the ancient ritual of the spear straightening ceremony is showing at Mitchell Fine Art on April 4th, 2018.
  • 2008
    2008 Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney.
  • 1999
    Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.
  • 1997
    Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.

Group

  • 2025
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Charles Darwin University Gallery, NT, 29 October 2025 – 28 February 2026
  • 2025
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Yarrila Arts & Museum, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2 August – 12 October 2025
  • 2025
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, SA, 24 May – 27 July 2025
  • 2025
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Queen Victoria Museum & Gallery, TAS, 1 February – 11 May 2025
  • 2024
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre, VIC, 23 November 2024 – 18 January 2025
  • 2024
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Benalla Art Gallery, VIC, 9 August – 27 October 2024
  • 2024
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Manly Art Gallery & Museum, NSW, 14 June – 29 July 2024
  • 2024
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, NSW, 23 March – 19 May 2024
  • 2023
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, NSW, 8 December 2023 – 8 December 2023
  • 2023
    Ikuntji Textiles, Central Craft, Alice Springs NT
  • 2023
    Country to Couture 2023, Darwin
  • 2023
    Objectified: Curated by Blak Douglas, 4-29th July 2023
  • 2023
    National Indigenous Art Fair, Sydney NSW
  • 2023
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, New England Regional Art Museum, NSW, 2 June – 27 August 2023
  • 2023
    Ikuntji Collection, Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, Sydney NSW
  • 2023
    Ikuntji Style, Artisan, Brisbane
  • 2023
    Ikuntji Style, Artisan, Brisbane
  • 2023
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, QLD, 4 March – 7 May 2023
  • 2022
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery , QLD, 26 November 2022 – 15 January 2023
  • 2022
    Design Canberra: Home:Made Exhibition, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra.
  • 2022
    Imagine! – International Festival of Extraordinary Textiles (FITE), Musée Bargoin, Clermont-Ferrand.
  • 2022
    Three Echoes – Western Desert Art, Caboolture Regional Art Gallery, QLD, 10 September – 19 November 2022
  • 2022
    2022 Tjunguku Tjukurrpa - Paris, voici nos Rêves !, IDAIA, Paris, France
  • 2022
    Ikuntji Textiles Exhibition, Central Craft, Alice Springs.
  • 2022
    Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair
  • 2022
    ‘Nganana Tjungu – This is Us’, Songlines, Darwin.
  • 2022
    NAIDOC MCA Store Exhibition and Activation, Sydney.
  • 2022
    Weaving Culture II: Ikuntji Artists, IDAIA, Lyon, France., 9 Jun - 9 July
  • 2022
    London Pacific Fashion Week, Dublin Runway Show., Royal Dublin Society
  • 2022
    First Nations Fashion Design - Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, Sydney., Carriageworks Sydney
  • 2022
    Couleurs Australie, IDAIA at BHV Marais, Paris, France., IDAIA at BHV Marais, Paris, France
  • 2022
    Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award 2021, Hazelhurst Arts Centre., 22 Jan 2022 - 27 Mar 2022
  • 2021
    The Banyule Award for Works on Paper Award, Banyule., Finalist Exhibition
  • 2020
    Country to Couture 2020, Darwin., Ikuntji X Magpie Goose fashion collaboration
  • 2020
    Ikuntji textiles Exhibition, Central Craft , Alice Springs., Sun 6 Sep 2020 at 09:00 → Mon 28 Sep 2020 at 17:00
  • 2020
    Pink Salon Art Project, Darwin.
  • 2019
    Desert Mob Market Place 2019, Alice Springs., Desert mob 2019 5th, 6th and 7th September, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs.
  • 2019
    Ikuntji Textiles, Central Craft, Alice Springs.
  • 2019
    Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair 2019, Darwin., 13th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, 9-11 August 2019
  • 2019
    Redrock gallery, June Group Exhibition, Gallery Grand Opening Beijing, P.R China
  • 2018
    AIATSIS Aboriginal Art Fair 2018, Canberra.
  • 2018
    TARNANTHI Art Fair 2018, Adelaide.
  • 2018
    Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair 2018, Darwin.
  • 2008
    2008 Black & White: Inspired by Landscapes, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney.
  • 2007
    Redrock gallery, August Group Exhibition, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Beijing, P.R China.
  • 2007
    Redrock gallery, July Group Exhibition China World Exhibition Centre, Beijing P.R China
  • 2005
    Redrock gallery, Group Exhibition, Relocation Exhibition, South Yarra.
  • 2004
    Redrock gallery Opening Exhibition, Como Centre, Melbourne.
  • 2001
    Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany.
  • 2000
    Galerie Knud Grothe, Charlottenlund, Denmark.
  • 2000
    Redrock gallery, November Group Exhibition, International Art Expo, Beijing, P.R China.
  • 2000
    2000 Beyond the Pale, Adelaide Festival Exhibition, Art Gallery of South Australia.
  • 1999
    Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
  • 1999
    Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany.
  • 1999
    Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco 1999
  • 1998
    Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs.
  • 1998
    Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany.
  • 1998
    Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, U.S.A.
  • 1998
    Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
  • 1998
    Flinders Art Museum Flinders University, Adelaide.
  • 1997
    Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 1997
    Spazio Pitti Arte Florence, Italy.
  • 1997
    Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne.
  • 1997
    National Indigenous Heritage Art Award 1998, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.
  • 1997
    Framed Gallery, Darwin.
  • 1997
    Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs.
  • 1997
    Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs.
  • 1997
    Adelaide Fringe Festival 1998, Adelaide.
  • 1997
    Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.
  • 1997
    Gallerie Dusseldorf, Perth.
  • 1997
    Ikuntji Tjuta touring exhibition 1997.
  • 1996
    Arnhem Land Exhibition, The Netherlands.
  • 1996
    Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, NT.
  • 1996
    Goteborgs Konstforening, Goteborg, Sweden.
  • 1996
    Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
  • 1996
    Alliance Francaise, Canberra.
  • 1996
    Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer, Germany.
  • 1996
    Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.
  • 1995
    Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.
  • 1995
    Niagara Galleries, Melbourne.
  • 1995
    National Indigenous Heritage Art Award 1996, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.
  • 1995
    "The Meeting Place" - touring exhibition, Australia.
  • 1995
    Gallerie Australis, Adelaide.
  • 1994
    Hogarth Galleries, Sydney.
  • 1994
    Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne.
  • 1994
    Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, Darwin.
  • 1994
    Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs.
  • 1994
    Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
  • 1994
    Hotel Shangri-la and Australian High Commision, Singapore.
  • 1994
    National Indigenous Heritage Art Award 1994, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.
  • 1993
    Adelaide Fringe Festival 1994, Adelaide.
  • 1993
    Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney.
  • 1992
    National Indigenous Heritage Art Award 1993, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.

Collections

  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
  • Artbank Australia.
  • Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs.
  • Edith Cowan University Art Collection, Perth.
  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
  • Robert & Janice Hunter Collection, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery.
  • Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne.
  • Kaplan and Levi Collection, Seattle.
  • Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland.