Katarra Butler Napaltjarri

Katarra Butler Napaltjarri

Known also as: Katjarra Butler, Katarra Napaltjarri

Date of Birth: c. 1946

Region: Kalkuta, southwest of Kintore, WA

Language: Pintupi

Katarra was born near Tjukurla, in Western Australia.  She was raised in the bush by her extended family before being transported by truck to Papunya in 1966 by Jeremy Long and the Welfare Patrols.  At that time she was already the second wife of the now renowned Papunya Tula artist Anatjari Tjakamarra, who was an important member of the original group of painters who started the Central Desert painting movement in Papunya in 1971. Katarra is the mother of renowned artist Kim Butler Napurrula, who sadly passed away in December 2016.

Katarra Butler Napaltjarri and her family group initially travelled between Papunya and Tjukurla, and then later between Tjukurla and Kiwirrkura. She has travelled extensively over her traditional lands from the time of first contact in the mid 1960s, through all the changes associated with the outstations movement and the growth of the desert art movement.

Katarra began painting in 2001, painting Women’s stories from her home country. Katarra described her subject to author Vivien Johnson as ‘stories from long time, walking in the bush’. Kuun is the name of the Waterhole in the area she refers to as home and the land of her tjukurpa (or dreamings) that she paints of the two Kuniya (python). This is called Kuurrmankutja. Kuun is also the traditional name for yellow ochre in that area. Katarra also paints the sites of Marrapirnti, with her stories depicting the ‘kungka’ women, ‘puli’ rocks and ‘tali’ sandhills of her land. 

Her paintings are clearly distinguishable through her use of bright rich colours and gestural brushwork all with a rawness evocative of a desert sand motif. Katarra’s fresh vibrant style has resulted in her being exhibited over the last few years in Sydney, Darwin, USA, and also in the 28th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in Darwin.