Mitjili Napurrula is a Pintupi woman from the Haasts Bluff region, located 200 kilometers west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. She was born around 1945 and is half sister to Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, another well-known long time Papunya Tula artist. She married Long Tom Tjapanangka (winner of the prestigious 1999 Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award) at Papunya in the 1960s, and they later lived at Haasts Bluff but now reside at Mt. Liebeg.
Napurrula began painting at the Ikuntji Women's Centre in 1992. She paints her father's country called Uwalki which lies in the Gibson Desert near the Kintore Ranges, west of Haasts Bluff. This country is characterized by red sandhills, bushes, and trees including the beautiful desert oaks. Her early paintings were not entirely successful, being seen as rather similar to the Papunya style paintings which she saw as a young woman. Since working with the Ikuntji artists, she has developed a very strong and distinctive personal style based on her paintings of trees and the country at Uwalki. She was taught some of her key imagery by her mother, drawing patterns in the sand. She says; "My mother taught me my father's Tjukurrpa; that's what I'm painting on the canvas". The Dreaming stories (Tjukurrpa) behind the paintings relate to the making of spears - an important aspect of "men's business". The patterns represent the women's side of this Tjukurrpa, showing the trees (Watiya Tjuta) that provide the wood for spear shafts and other objects.
Napurrula’s canvases are patterned with strong, vibrant colors, and contain an incredible energy. This style has gained her a strong following within Australia and internationally with regular sellout exhibitions. Her work was included in the exhibition, Spirit Country: Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art,at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco in 1999, and featured in the prestigious Adelaide Biennial 2000, Beyond the Pale
. Her work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and elsewhere.
Biography courtesy of Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, Australia
wife of and collaborated with Long Tom Tjapanangka
daughter of Tjunkiya Napaltjarri
sister of Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula
niece of Wintjiya Napaltjarri
skin group sister of Lorna Napurrula Fencer
skin group sister of Ningura Napurrula
Alice Prize, Araluen Centre for the Arts, Alice Springs, Australia (1999)
Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs, Australia (1994)
Australian Heritage Art Award, Canberra, Australia (1993)