A biography of a Pintupi man, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (c1923-98), who became an award-winning Papunya Tula artist.
Namarari is a worthy choice as a biographical subject. He won the National Aboriginal Art Award (1991) and the Alice Prize (1994, co-winner), and was the inaugural recipient of the Commonwealth’s prestigious Red Ochre Award (1994) – the only artist to receive all three awards. Yet there is no published biography of Namarari, only sketches, and no fulsome account of his innovative art practice or outstanding career.
This story provides insights into the colonisation of Central Australia and the tenacity of the Pintupi people. Namarari’s biography illuminates the circumstances of desert living and remote settlements for metropolitan readers, and offers some background for understanding contemporary communities and the link between remote artists and the marketplace.
The early chapters cover Namarari’s childhood in the desert and his move to the mission and cattle stations (1920s-1930s). The middle chapters cover his adult life in the cross-cultural zone west of Alice Springs (1940s-1960s). The final chapters cover the 1970s to 1990s and consider his mostly hidden roles of educator and local leader, and his art career, lavishly illustrated, through to his passing in 1998.
A reserved man, Namarari is remembered as a generous companion and a caring husband and father. Beyond his artwork he made numerous contributions as a patient teacher to Papunya Tula’s staff. Against the odds Namarari became an award-winning artist and left a profound legacy of over 700 paintings that illustrate his personal inventiveness and the cultural richness of his heritage.
The Master from Marnpi by Alec O’Halloran.
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