Born: c. 1945
Skin Name: Napurrula
Region: Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Northern Territory
Language: Pintupi
Subjects and Themes (Dreaming): Watiya Tjuta

Mitjili Napurrula’s work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and overseas.

Born at Haasts Bluff, the Aboriginal artist Mitjili Napurrula is the daughter of Topa Tjakamarra (now deceased) and Tjunkiya Napaltjarri. She is married to Long Tom Tjapanangka and currently lives and paints in Haasts Bluff.


In 1959 Mitjili Napurrula and her family moved from Haasts Bluff to the new settlement of Papunya. It was here that she observed the men, including her brother Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula (deceased), painting.

Initially, Mitjili Napurrula’s paintings followed the style of the artists from Papunya. On returning to Haasts Bluff she commenced painting in 1992 for the Ikuntji Women’s Centre. She soon developed her own style, drawing on her father’s Dreaming Uwalki, which is the story of the spear straightening ceremony taught to Mitjili by her mother.

Mitjili Napurrula’s distinctive style is based on her father’s country, also called Uwalki, an area west of Haasts Bluff near the Kintore Ranges in the Northern Territory. Characterised by red sandhills, bushes and trees it is here that the spearwood trees used to make spears, are found.

As custodian of the Kulata Tjurrkupa (Spear Dreaming) and representing the female side of the Dreaming, Mitjili Napurrula depicts the trees (Watiya Tjuta) which provide the wood for the spears, whilst her brother is well known for painting the stories associated with making and assembling the spears.

Mitjili Napurrula’s work is held in major public and private collections in Australia and overseas.

From: Aboriginal Artists, dictionary of biographies by Janusz B. Kreczmanski and Margo Birnberg

Mitjili Napurrula is a Pintupi woman from the Ikuntji ( Haasts Bluff) region in the Northern Territory. She was born around 1945 and is half-sister to Turkey Tolson, another well-known Pintupi painter. She now lives with her husband, celebrated Aboriginal painter, Long Tom Tjapanangka, winner of the prestigious Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Islander Art award 1999, in Mt. Liebig.

Her early paintings were not entirely successful being seen as rather similar to the Papunya style paintings which she saw as a youth. However, since commencing painting in 1993 at the Ikuntji Women’s Centre, she has developed a very strong and personal style and has built her a reputation as one of the most innovative of the contemporary Central Desert Aboriginal painters. Her canvasses are patterned with strong, vibrant colours, and contain an incredible energy.

Mitjili Napurrula’s paintings are more often a representation of trees that provide the wood for the making of spears and other wooden objects. The country where the trees are found is Uwalki, Mitjili’s father’s country, which lies in the Gibson Desert near the Kintore Ranges. This country is characterized by red sand hills, bushes and trees, including the beautiful desert oaks. Mitjili Napurrula was taught her father’s Dreaming by her mother (Tjunkayi Napaltjarri) , who drew key images of Uwalki,( also the name of the trees that traditionally provide wood for spears) in the sand.

Other Dreamings Mitjili Napurrula has inherited include Wangunu or Portulaca (small black seeds ground and used to make damper) and Arkatjirri- a fruit similar to a sultana that is found in the bush. A large body of her work includes vibrant reds, yellows and browns which serve to communicate the essence of flowers. Her symbolic representations are strongly patterned with distinctive contrasts in the use of colour. Formative symbols take shape against a dotted white background-creating depth and movement.

Mitjili Napurrula’s distinctive style has gained her a strong following within Australia and internationally with regular sell-out exhibitions. Mitjili Napurrula sometimes collaborates with her husband.

Her superb sense of spacing and colour is appealing and indicative of her playful manner.

Recent Solo & Group Exhibitions
2005 – Summer in the Desert, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney 2004 – Die inneren und die auBeren Dinge. City Gallery Bamberg Villa Dessauer, Bamberg, Germany ( in conjunction with Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer)
2003 – Big Country: Works from the Flinders University Art Museum collection, Flinders University Gallery, Adelaide
2002 – The Strength and the Light from Australia, Art Association Aschaffenburg, Germany ( in conjunction with Aboriginal Art Galerie Bahr, Speyer)
2001 – Galerie Knud Grothe, Charlottenlund, Denmark
Prizes/Special Awards
1999 – Alice Springs Art Prize
1994 – Northern Territory Art Award, Alice Springs
1993 – Australian Heritage Art Award, Canberra


Paintings by Mitjili Napurrula: