Thomas Tjapaltjarri, also known as Tamayinya, was born in the Gibson Desert near Lake Mackay and east of Kiwirkurra c.1964. Thomas Tjapaltjarri was a member of a small group of nine Pintupi people who made international headlines when they walked out of the desert in 1984 due to severe drought. They had been missed by the many government patrols through the area due to their remoteness.
Until 1984 they had allowed little to no contact with Europeans and led a traditional nomadic lifestyle as they were afraid their children would be taken away. Waterholes in this area were up to 50kms apart and every day was spent walking in the relentless heat from one to another. “Sometimes there was no water, so we would hunt for goanna,” says Yukultji. The blood of these monitor lizards provided vital moisture when a water soak was dry.
Thomas Tjapaltjarri’s two elder brothers, Walimpiringa and Walala Tjapaltjarri are now both acclaimed artists as are some of his older female relatives, Yalti and Yukultji. It is no surprise that the subject of their paintings relates to the ‘Tingari ancestors’, the sacred sites, and water soakages in the Gibson Desert that were so important in their constant search for food and water.
Recent news publications have featured the Pintupi Group with some beautiful images can be viewed at the following links; BBC article here and the Australian article here .