Walala Tjapaltjarri

Walala Tjapaltjarri

Date of Birth: c. 1960

Region: Marua, East of Kiwirrkura, W.A 

Language: Pintupi

Walala Tjapaltjarri was born in Marua, East of Kiwirrkura in the Gibson Desert. Since he began painting in 1997 Walala has gained worldwide acclaim, participating in several national and international solo and group exhibitions. His paintings are represented in private and public collections around the world and his is a significant figure in the Indigenous art world.

It was in late 1984 that Walala and several other members of his Pintupi tribe walked out of the remote wilderness of the Gibson Desert in Western Australia and made contact with European society for the first time. Described as 'The Lost Tribe', he and his family created international headlines. Until that day in 1984, Walala and his family had lived a traditional and nomadic life in a hunter-gatherer society. They were the last of the nomadic aborigines to be assimilated to the community known as Kiwirrkura and were reunited with relatives they had not seen for twenty five years. Their intimate knowledge of the land, its flora and fauna and waterholes allowed them to survive, as their ancestors had for thousands of years. It is this sacred landscape with its significant sites that Walala so strikingly describes in his paintings.

Walala was first introduced to painting by his brother Warlimpirrnga, also a painter of international acclaim. 

While Walala's first paintings were in a classical Tingari style usually reserved for body painting, ground painting and the decoration of traditional artifacts, within a couple of months his paintings evolved, displaying his own innovative style of work. He began abstracting the classical Pintupi designs, creating a highly graphic language to speak of his country and ceremonial sites.

His style is strongly gestural and bold, a style that is generally highlighted by a series of rectangles set against a monochrome background. He paints the Tingari Cycle, a series of sacred and secret mythological song cycles, which are associated with the artist's many dreaming sites. These Dreamings are the locations of significant rockholes, sandhills, sacred mountains and water soakages in the Gibson Desert.

His Tingari speaks of the epic journey of ancestors during the Tjukurrpa (Creation Era), where Tingari ancestor beings gathered at a series of sites for Malliera (initiation) ceremonies. They travelled vast stretches of the country, performing rituals at specific sites that in turn created the diverse natural features of the land. The creation stories and rituals are venerated in the song cycles and ceremonies of today, forming part of the teachings of the post initiatory youths, whilst also providing explanations for contemporary customs. The content of these stories is an entitlement bestowed on the initiated men and remains secret knowledge to this day.