Wentja Morgan Napaltjarri

Yarrenyty Arltere Artists & Tangentyere Artists

W. Napaltjarri was born at Malparinga, a rock hole site which is close to the south west tip of Wilkinkarra [Lake Mackay] in Western Australia about 1943. She was the daughter of Shorty Lungkara Tjungarrayi, one of the founders of the Western Desert painting movement. Sadly, she passed away in 2021, a dearly missed artist.

When Napaltjarri was young, her father and uncle, led their families east in the footsteps of the Ancestral Emu Men of Tingarri cycles, out of the desert. They travelled from water to water. It was hot weather time in the desert and there was little water to be found. This area is dominated by high tali [sandhills], so knowledge of the exact location of kapi [water], whether hidden rockholes, claypans, natural springs, or soakages, was critical for survival. Napaltjarri and her family successfully navigated their journey out of the desert to join other relatives in settlements at Haasts Bluff Mission Outpost about 1948. The family then moved to Papunya around 1960. As with so many Pintupi families, Napaltjarri’s extended family established a strong artistic voice in Pintupi culture.

Wentja mostly paints Tingarri and Kapi Tjukurrpa, the iconography for which has been handed down to her by her father. She also paints Tali [sandhills], Puli [rockholes], Watiya Tjuta [Desert Oaks], and other landmarks central to her Country, and her father’s Country. Her first works were collaborative, helping out the men in the family with their work. While they painted the stories, Wentja did the dotting in-fill, characteristic of the Papunya Tula artists. Eventually Napaltjarri began her own career painting for Watiyawanu Artists, and with Tangentyere Artists in 2017, painting alongside her sister, established artist L. Syddick. 

She has a very distinctive style and her work highly sought by the Australian and international art collectors. Her work has been exhibited in leading Australian and international exhibitions, including the 2003 exhibition Masterpieces from the Western Desert, in London. Wentja’s artwork is represented in important collections in Australia and overseas including Art Bank Sydney, Homes a Court Collection, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, Kerry Stokes and Thomas Vroom Collections National Aboriginal Art and Culture Institute in Adelaide and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.