Nyankulya Watson Walyampari (c.1938 – 2012) was a significant and influential founding painter of three of the APY-NPY region’s important art centres: Irrunytju Arts (est.2001-2006); Ninuku Arts (est.2004) and Tjungu Palya (est. 2006). She moved between these art centres as family and cultural needs dictated.
Born at a rock hole, Mt. Aloysius, in Western Australia, Watson’s paintings are exclusively of her Country and its tjukurrpa (traditional Law). The symbols represent significant areas such as rock holes and land formations, all of which were created by the Ancestral spirits that are still active in the area.
Watson’s paintings allow us to begin to understand Australia from the perspective of our First Australians. Australian Indigenous culture is the oldest living culture in the world, and is at least 40,000 years old. While the contemporary lives of these people have changed markedly since colonisation, traditional beliefs are still practiced in many areas, and Country – where a person was born – is indivisible from a person’s sense of self.
With the execution of every work, Watson expressed her identity, spirituality, Law, kinship, and claim to Country. While a handful of early collectors and institutions recognised her importance, the wider art community is only now beginning to appreciate just how rare artists of Watson’s calibre are.