The master from Marnpi

A biography of a Pintupi man, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (c1923-98),  who became an award-winning Papunya Tula artist.

The book is for people wishing to learn about Namarari, Pintupi people and culture, Aboriginal art, Papunya Tula Artists and twentieth century Central Australian history.

“… an exemplary work of scholarship, of sourcing and citation, and it will not only be a fundamental piece of work for those interested in Indigenous Australian art but also, in my view, for many others with curiosity and interest in Indigenous life and history.”

– Professor Fred Myers | New York University, in the Australian Journal of Biography and History, No. 4, 2020, published by the Australian National University.

“The master from Marnpi is worth owning for the images alone. Its compilation was clearly a labour of love, out of which Alec O’Halloran has made a beautiful book about a wonderful man.”

– Dr Martin Edmond | Sydney Review of Books, August 2019.

The master from Marnpi (2018) ISBN 9780959056549, features a hardcover with jacket, 244 pages, 300 x 240 mm and 238 illustrations.

Namarari is a worthy choice as a biographical subject. He won the National Aboriginal Art Award (1991) and the Alice Prize (1994, co-winner), and was the inaugural recipient of the Commonwealth’s prestigious Red Ochre Award (1994) – the only artist to receive all three awards. Yet there is no published biography of Namarari, only sketches, and no fulsome account of his innovative art practice or outstanding career.

This story provides insights into the colonisation of Central Australia and the tenacity of the Pintupi people. Namarari’s biography illuminates the circumstances of desert living and remote settlements for metropolitan readers, and offers some background for understanding contemporary communities and the link between remote artists and the marketplace.

The early chapters cover Namarari’s childhood in the desert and his move to the mission and cattle stations (1920s-1930s). The middle chapters cover his adult life in the cross-cultural zone west of Alice Springs (1940s-1960s). The final chapters cover the 1970s to 1990s and consider his mostly hidden roles of educator and local leader, and his art career, lavishly illustrated, through to his passing in 1998.

A reserved man, Namarari is remembered as a generous companion and a caring husband and father. Beyond his artwork he made numerous contributions as a patient teacher to Papunya Tula’s staff. Against the odds Namarari became an award-winning artist and left a profound legacy of over 700 paintings that illustrate his personal inventiveness and the cultural richness of his heritage.

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