Surparkra was born in Papunya in 1967 at the old clinic next to the school. He is the seventh child out of eight. He is the son of Ikuntji Artists’ founding member Narputta Nangala Jugadai and internationally acclaimed artist Timmy Jugadai. Narputta was one the most acclaimed artists from Ikuntji Artists. Narputta assisted her husband – Timmy Tjungurrayi Jugadai – who painted in the mid-1970s and intermittently into the 1980s for Papunya Tula.
Narputta was born at Lake Mcdonald in Western Australia. Her and her family travelled 400 kilometres east to Haasts Bluff on foot when the ration stations were first set up. Her brother was Riley Major, who painted regularly for Papunya Tula in the 1980s. Riley’s country is around Piltarta and Muruntji, south-west of Mt Liebig. He often painted the Snake Dreaming story associated with the site Kakarra. Narputta’s sister was Tatali Nangala, another founding member of Ikuntji Artists. She was born in the mountains along the eastern side of Kintore Community. In Haasts Bluff she married Charlie Tarawa Tjunggarayi, together they had seven children. Their daughter, Eileen Anyama Napaltjarri is an established painter, and has been painting for Ikuntji Artists and Papunya Tula Artists for many years.
Their family used to stop for water at Muruntji, which is located west of Haasts Bluff. It was at Purritjara, just west of Muruntji, that Narputta’s father, Surparkra’s grandfather, Tjampitjinpa, encountered another tribe and was killed by them. He is buried there in Muruntji. Their father passed away when Riley was only a small child, so the two were taken to Hermannsburg with the missionaries and raised by the Inkamala family there. Narputta then moved back to Haasts Bluff, where she met her husband Timmy Jugadai. Riley Major moved to Kintore, where he has lived most of his life. He has had two wives and many grandchildren. He now has one wife.
Surparkra’s father, Timmy was born at Winparku, located just west of Haasts Bluff. Timmy was taken from his parents and raised in Hermannsburg mission during the stolen generation. Although raised at the mission, the old Aboriginal men taught him how to be educated “black fella way”. He knew the stories and song lines of his country very well. Timmy first married an Arrernte woman called Bessie, together they had six children. Timmy then met Narputta at the creek in Haasts Bluff. Timmy and another grandfather fought over Narputta. Timmy and Narputta married and had eight children together. Haasts Bluff was originally a cattle station, then a mission settlement before it was the community it is today. In 1959, the iconic Haasts Bluff church was built, which was one of the first buildings in Haasts Bluff. Timmy worked with some whitefellas and looked after the church. During his life, Timmy had four wives. He began painting in the 1970s with Papunya Tula during the genesis of the Western Desert painting movement. He also painted in Haasts Bluff with his wife Narputta and Tilau Nangala in the ‘upstairs house’ (the first house built in Haasts Bluff). Tilau Nangala was married to Henry Jugadai, they had two children, Mavis and Monica. Henry passed away in the 1970s, and so Tilau was with Timmy, who helped raise her children in Haasts Bluff. Timmy passed away in the late 80s or early 90s.
Narputta has long been painting with Timmy, though at that time, women could not get paid to paint, and so often helped their husbands. Surparkra remembers his mother painting a Toyota with the other ladies, with the Tjukurrpa of Lake Mcdonald. Surparkra went to school in Haasts Bluff, when it was held in the old silver bullet caravan. After that he went to Yirrara College in Alice Springs from some years, and then returned home.
When Surparkra was five years old he had an accident and broke both of his legs. He spent three years in rehabilitation in Adelaide, where he lived with nurses at Wiltja Residence. For much of his childhood, Surprakra was crippled and couldn’t play. With much happiness, Surprakra says that he can now run and play football.
When he was a teenager, he remembers going to Glen Helen with his mother and other artists from the Jugadai family to sell their paintings to whitefellas. At that time there was no art centre in Haasts Bluff, so they used to cut up old canvas tents and get paints from the school to use. They used to lay everything down on the sand and sell to the tourists who came. They made paintings, jewellery and goannas carved from wood. Surparkra started to learn the skills from his mother, and Dolcy Nangala (Timmy’s ex-wife). Dolcy was from Kurpitjara, Undarana, on the other side of the ranges south of Haasts Bluff. They sold paintings at Glen Helen until the early 90s. In 1992, the women painters of Haasts Bluff founded Ikuntji Women’s Centre. Narputta was one of those women, along with Eunice Napanangka Jack, Linda Ngitjanka, Tjungapi Napaltjarri, Mitjili Napurrula, Marlee Napurrula, Anmanari Nolan and Long Tom Tjapanangka. Surparka recalls his mother thinking and saying, “I might start an art centre in this community, and she did it.
At this time Surparkra was in his mid 20s and was working at the office. He then moved to Papunya where he worked in the shop and met his first wife, Virginia Brown Napurrula. Virginia passed away. He then married Valmay Miner Nampitjinpa. Valmay moved away with her family to Mt Liebig. In 2009, he met Susan Fry in Alice Springs. They were married and have had two children and one adopted child together, Timmy (b.2010), Rickies (b.2013) and Jannet (b.2016). Susan is from Yuendumu and had moved to Alice Springs with her family.
Having grown up surrounded by artists, Surparka started seriously painting in 2010. He says he used to watch Narputta and Riley painting, “I just watched them painting, and then I started”. Surparkra paints the Wanampi Tjukurrpa (snake Dreaming) at Karrinyarra and also the Malu Tjukurrpa (kangaroo Dreaming) at Yatibilong (north of Papunya).
2022 ‘Nganana Tjungu – This is Us’, Songlines, Darwin.
2018 Ikuntji Artists - Irrimatitja, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle.
2017 Ngurra Kutju - Tjukurrpa Tjuta, One Country - Many Stories, Exhibition at Colin Biggers & Paisley, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane.