Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri

Australian Aboriginal artist

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri (piu [waɭɪmb̥ɪrɪ ɖ̥ɟəb̥əɭɖ̥ɟaːrɪ]; born late 1950s) is an Australian Aboriginal artist. He is one of Australia's most well-known indigenous artists.

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
Bornlate 1950s
hillside east of modern-day Kiwirrkurra, Western Australia [1]
Years active1987 – present
OrganizationPapunya Tula
StyleWestern Desert art
SpouseYalti Napangati
Children4 [2][3]
Parent(s)Waku Tjungurrayi (father)
Papalya Nangala (mother)
RelativesTopsy Napaltjarri
Takariya Napaltjarri
Piyiti Tjapaltjarri
Thomas Tjapangati
Yukultji Napangati
Walala Tjapangati

Early life


Warlimpirrnga was born in the late 1950s.[7] He was born near Lake Mackay, east of where Kiwirrkurra is today.[5] He and his family lived a traditional nomadic way of life on the western side of Lake Mackay. They had never come into contact with European society. Warlimpirrnga's father died when he was a young boy. His mother remarried shortly after. Warlimpirrnga himself married his cousin, Yalti, sometime around 1980. He was a hunter, the family's main provider of food.[8] He hunted with spears, mirru (spear-throwers) and boomerangs.[4]

In 1984, when he was about 25, he finally came into contact people from outside his family.[4] When he saw a white man for the first time, Warlimpirrnga remembers, "I couldn't believe it. I thought he was a devil, a bad spirit. He was the colour of clouds at sunrise."[9] He and his family were settled at Kiwirrkurra. News of this group living nomadically so far into the modern world made headlines internationally.[4]



Warlimpirrnga started painting in 1987. He did paintings for Papunya Tula.[5] He was taught by the other artists at the company.[1] He finished his first painting for them in April 1987.[2] His first public exhibition was in Melbourne, in 1988. It showed eleven of his paintings. The entire collection was bought for the National Gallery of Victoria.[5][2] He has since become one of central Australia's most well-known artists.[4]

Warlimpirrnga paints abstract images of sacred dreaming stories and songs. The stories focus around the Tingari, the ancestors of the Pintupi, spirit beings who are believed to have created all living things. His stories are about his country and sacred sites like Marruwa and Kanapilya.[5][2]

His work is held in public collections across Australia, such as in the National Gallery in Canberra, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Victoria.[5] He also has work in galleries overseas, such as the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.[2] In 2012, his work was shown as part of the documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany.[6][10] As of 2008, the most one of his paintings has sold for is AU$85,000.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Johnson, Vivien (1994). "Tjapaltjarri Warlimpirrnga". Design and Art Australia Online. College of Fine Arts. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Documentation card: "Untitled" (2001) by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. View online at the Art Gallery of New South Wales[permanent dead link]
  3. Johnson, Vivien (2008). Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Alice Springs: IAD Press. p. 334.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Toohey, Paul (4 May 2004). "The Last Nomads" (PDF). The Bulletin. p. 28–35. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Corbally Stourton, Patrick; Corbally Stourton, Nigel (1996). Songlines and dreamings: contemporary Australian aboriginal painting. Lund Humphries. p. 177. ISBN 9780853316916.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Smith, Roberta (13 June 2012). "Art Show as Unruly Organism: Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany". The New York Times. New York. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  7. Since he was born almost 30 years before he came to know about dating systems, the exact year is not known. Some sources guess around 1958 or 1959.[4][5][6]
  8. Perkins, Hetti (2011). Art + Soul. Miegunyah Press. p. 76. ISBN 9780522857634.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Adlam, Nigel (3 February 2007). "Lost tribe happy in modern world". Herald Sun. Herald & Weekly Times Pty Ltd.
  10. Woods, Cameron (7 June 2012). "Australian artists shine at dOCUMENTA (13)". Australia Council for the Arts. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012.

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