We reported that Mrs Bennett had passed away in January 2013 – near her ancestral rockhole at Punkilpirri, WA. That notice sparked great interest about her life and so we are delighted to bring you more on this National Treasure.
Born circa 1935 at Yumarra, North of Docker River, Western Australia, Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa grew up in Pitjanjatjara country around Punardi and later Tjukurla. As an adult she married the artist John John Bennett Tjapangati – as silent and introspective as his wife was ebullient and expressive “ like her paintings, according to Vivian Johnson in her bible, Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. She goes on to say that Theirs was one of the strongest marriage partnerships at Kintore, and it produced five sons and a daughter. Both were Ngangkaris, traditional healers, and she consulted to the Kintore Health Clinic when in the settlement.
While Mr Bennett (who died in 2002) began painting for Papunya Tula in 1986, Mrs B only became involved after she’d been instrumental in the development of the influential Haasts Bluff/Kintore Women’s Painting Camp in 1994. This lead to her first group showing in Alice in 1996.
Mrs Bennett painted her mother’s Dreamings which are connected to sites at Yumarra, Wantjunga and Tjalilli rockholes near Tjukurla, and the laarge permanent waters at Pukara, Ngalkinginga and Munkara. She was deeply concerned with women’s culture, and her designs often depicted women’s ceremonies and rituals. The women’s role in gathering bush tucker such as Kampurarrpa (desert raisin) and quandong were also celebrated. The depictions of her sand dune country and surrounding rocky outcrops bear a relationship to the designs used for body painting during ceremonial dances, aka ‘inma’. Mrs Bennett favoured the use of strong contrasts using blacks and pale yellows/creams set in relief often against a red ground.
Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa was named among the top 50 of Australia’s Most Collectable Artists in March 2001 issue of Australian Art Collector. According to Vivien Johnson, this lead to her beginning to work for a number of private dealers in Alice Springs in order to achieve Toyota for Mrs Bennett, Number One, to visit her Country. Notable amongst these was Chris Simons at Yanda “ to whom questions about Mrs B’s death were referred by Papunya Tula Artists.
Having been exhibited widely across Australia, Singapore and Germany, Mrs Bennett’s work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, The Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank and in corporate and private collections internationally.