National Book Launch

The master from Marnpi national book launch was held at the Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, as part of the Desart Symposium, on Friday 7 September. It was a great success, with an appreciative crowd of over 400 people enjoying marvellous presentations from several Aboriginal art centres.

This was a very special and emotional moment for me, I launched the book with Elizabeth Marks Nakamarra (widow of the late Namarari), sharing stories of his life and art.

Elizabeth is both the senior family representative authorising Alec’s research and a Papunya Tula artist of over twenty years. She paints stories of her father’s country, Kalipinypa, which is the subject of Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula’s famed paintings of the early 1970s.

The official book launch, on stage at the Desert Mob 2018 Symposium, was capped off with Alec and Elizabeth signing numerous copies for local residents and people who had travelled to Alice for the Desert Mob weekend and art fair.

Alec had several treasured moments in Alice Springs, two of which stand out.

When I gave the book to Elizabeth, sitting with her family, it was a thrill to watch her leafing through the pages. I had been promising the book for so long and now she had it in her hands. We chatted together about some of the pictures and memories of Namarari.

The second special moment was when Alec gave the book to one of Namarari’s granddaughters, Fabrianne Peterson Nampitjinpa, who had helped Alec with his research (The master from Marnpi, pages 110-111). When she saw the book her face lit up with the most beautiful smile as she touched her hand to the picture of her grandfather on the cover. She slowly turned the pages, paying close attention to the sections on Papunya and Mt Liebig, where she grew up and raised her own family. 

As I stood to thank Fabrianne and leave, she looked me in the eye and said, ‘thank you for writing the history of my country,’ my heart melted. 

You can watch Alec and Elizabeth’s book launch presentation online here.


On Saturday 8 September Papunya Tula Artists held a lively ‘meet the author’ and book signing at its gallery in the Mall. PTA’s manager, Paul Sweeney introduced Alec:

“The number of phone calls, emails and so on over ten years demonstrates the level of commitment and dedication that Alec has put into this… I doubt anybody could go about a project like this with the efficiency that Alec has… it really is quite an epic product… this publication does great justice to the man himself, Namarari, who was very rare and beautiful person.”

Alec described the central role of Papunya Tula Artists in his research and field work out west at Haasts Bluff, Papunya, Mt Liebig and Kintore. Alec emphasised a unique aspect of The Master from Marnpi - he interviewed all the key art advisers who worked with Namarari from 1971 to 1998. Their stories bring new insights into Papunya Tula’s history.


In Alice Springs Alec was interviewed by Stewart Brash on ABC radio about Namarari’s life and art career. Stewart commented "I love looking through art books" and described Alec’s book as ‘a labour of love’. Alec recalled his first meeting at Papunya in 2010 with Namarari’s adopted son, Keith Butler Tjungurrayi, who said of his father, “That old man had a big mob of Dreamings in his head.” (The master from Marnpi, page 158)

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