Kumanjayi Jurra Tjapaltjarri was born in the desert at the site where Kiwirrkura community now stands, circa 1952. As a young boy he lived a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, before his family encountered the NT Welfare Patrol for the first time in the early 1960s. Kumanjayi and his family were taken to live at Papunya in 1964.
Raised in part by senior Papunya Tula artist Willy Tjungurrayi, Kumanjayi began painting for the company in 1986. Kumanjayi received early recognition as an artist, holding his first solo exhibition in Melbourne only two years later. In 1997, Kumanjayi travelled to Paris with Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula for the exhibition ‘Peintres Aborigenes d’Australie’ at the Grande Halle de la Vilette. There, the artists constructed two intricate sand paintings that became the central feature of the exhibition.
Kumanjayi has exhibited widely, and his works are held in many major collections, notably the NGA, NGV, AGNSW, the Harvard Museum of Art (USA) and the Toledo Museum of Art (USA).
Kumanjayi Jurra’s untitled painting refers to Yunala, a creek and rockhole site-complex, west of Kiwirrkura in Western Australia. During ancestral times, a large group of Tingari men stopped at this site to dig for the edible roots of the bush banana, known as yunala (Marsdenia australis), which is abundant in this area. After their feast, the men continued travelling north-east to Tarkul, north of Winparku (Mt Webb). The Tingari Cycle is secret-sacred in nature, but in general, the Tingari are a group of ancestral beings who traversed the country, shaping the landscape through their travels.
Kumanjayi’s work is characterised by intricate, rhythmic line-work, and a subtlety of palette. This work is no exception – the artist’s use of a burnt orange under-painting tempers the flow of the blue-grey surface layer, suggesting the seasonal movements of the ephemeral desert waterways. Kumanjayi favours large scale canvases that he painstakingly details with ripples of line-work layered with dots. The grand scale of his works evoke an atmospheric viewpoint, reminding us of the vastness of the landscape and our fleetingness within it.