Papunya Tula Artists has announced the death of artist Kumantjayi (Morris) Gibson Tjapaltjarri on Saturday 7th October 2017 at the age of about 60.
Kumantjayi was the eldest son of Pintupi painting royalty, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi and Ningura Napurrula and will always remain a much-loved member of the Papunya Tula family. A loveable rogue, Hawthorn Football Club fanatic, dedicated family man and brilliant artist, he lit up our lives like no other.
His indomitable spirit defied modern medicine. As a child in 1963, he rolled into a camp fire and was treated in hospital for 3 months before being returned to his family’s Patjantja homeland in the Gibson Desert (which gave them the name, Gibbs). Later, when doctors repeatedly delivered their sobering diagnosis on his terminal kidney disease, including the removal of both his legs, he simply shrugged off their comments, turned the key on his motorised scooter, and sped off. The man was busy and had much to do. This is how he lived his life, to the absolute fullest, and right up to the last minute. No road was too rough, no sand too deep and no tyre too flat, he remained mobile when most would’ve simply given up.
His painting career spanned over twenty-five years, technically commencing in in 1987 with his first painting, but really only getting up steam when his father died in 1998. It culminated in his finest moment just weeks ago in Alice Springs during Desert Mob, in his own gallery at Papunya Tula Artists….his first solo exhibition of paintings which centred around his most celebrated sites, Untari and Lake MacDonald.
To no one’s surprise the show stunned all that were fortunate enough to see it and the exhibition sold out. This body of work came from an entirely different perspective, simultaneously both figurative and abstract. Channeled from the spiritual world occupied by the Untari Lizard Man, through Tjapaltjarri, directly to the viewer. They were profound images that none of us will ever forget.
We will miss his presence, his keen sense of humor and his eternal optimism. His passion for life was boundless but eventually he simply had to give in. As the first of this year’s summer storms rolled through the Western Desert, Kumantjayi chose his time to leave this world. Lightning, thunder and drought breaking rains signaled the end of his physical life. Thankfully his spirit hadn’t far to travel as he was at home in Kintore, comfortable, peaceful and surrounded by his family.
Papunya Tula Artists would like to pay tribute and thanks to the staff of the Purple House, the Central Desert mobile dialysis unit, who greeted his death thus:
We are very proud that he was able to spend the last ten years of his life out in Walungurru (Kintore) 550 kms west of Alice Springs, receiving dialysis set up by the community. He had contributed to the Kintore Men’s painting which was sold at the Western Desert Dialysis appeal event in Sydney in 2000. This gave Purple House the money to establish a new model of dialysis care on Country. He didn’t know at the time he would need our services himself. And one of his paintings adorns the back of our Purple Truck. It is out in Mt Liebig community this week.
To all the art workers, art lovers, community members and nurses who have got to know him over the years, CEO Sarah Brown says¦don’t be too sad! We are all better for having known him, for having shared in the delight that was this extraordinary man.