Author(s): Alec O'Halloran
The Aboriginal artist Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (c1923-1998) was 'one of the pillars of contemporary art practice' (Hetti Perkins, Art Gallery NSW). This ground-breaking account is the first published biography of any Pintupi individual. Two questions are central: how are we to understand Tjapaltjarri, and, what can we learn from him? Comprehending his life pivots on three Pintupi concepts: tjukurrpa, walytja and ngurra, understood broadly as Dreamtime, family and place. Tjapaltjarri is a worthy biographical subject. He won the National Aboriginal Art Award, the Alice Prize and Australia's prestigious Red Ochre Award- the only artist to receive all three awards. The Master from Marnpi follows Tjapaltjarri as a child, survivor, stockman, traveller, artist, family leader, cultural advocate and community member, through the life stages of boy, adult and old man. This historically detailed and culturally sensitive narration of his fascinating life in Australia's remote desert settlements is illuminating for metropolitan readers, yielding insights into Aboriginal lives in contemporary art-producing communities and their links to the marketplace. Tjapaltjarri's exemplary art career (1971-1998) is richly illustrated through numerous significant paintings. His cooperative relationships with key relatives, supporters and art advisers reveal a creative generous spirit within a reserved humble man.