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Thomas Tjapaltjarri
Born
Tamayinya Tjapangati

c. 1964
Residence Hoppy's Camp, near Alice Springs
Kiwirrkurra, Western Australia
Nationality Australian
Other names Tamlik
Occupation Painter
Years active late 1980s – present
Organization Papunya Tula
Style Western Desert art
Parent(s) Lanti, or "Joshua" (father)
Nanu Nangala (mother)
Relatives Yalti Napangati
Yukultji Napangati
Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
Walala Tjapangati
Topsy Napaltjarri
Takariya Napaltjarri

Thomas Tjapaltjarri (born Tamayinya Tjapangati, also often known as Tamlik) is an Australian Aboriginal artist. He and his brothers Warlimpirrnga and Walala have become well-known as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers. Thomas and his family became known as the last group of Aborigines to come into contact with modern, European society. They came out of the desert in 1984, and became known as "the last nomads".

Early life

See also: Pintupi Nine

Thomas was born in the desert of Western Australia sometime in the 1960s. He and his family lived a traditional nomadic way of life on the western side of Lake Mackay. They had never come into contact with European society. Most other Pintupi families had been settled in remote towns to the east and west of their traditional country during the 1950s. Thomas' father, Lanti (or "Joshua"), had lived for a short time at the mission in Balgo, but he had run away after getting into trouble for stealing food. It was his decision to stay in the desert, and kept his family far away from the towns.

Thomas' mother was named Nanu. He also had two other mothers, Papunya and Watjunka, who were his father's secondary wives. He had two younger sisters, Yalti and Yukultji, a younger half-brother Walala, and four other "siblings" (cousins by blood relation). His father died sometime around 1980. The family finally came into contact with outsiders in October 1984, and were settled at Kiwirrkurra. The event was big news at the time, and the family became famously known as "the last nomads". Thomas was diagnosed with epilepsy shortly after this.

Painting

Thomas began painting in December 1987, a few years after settling at Kiwirrkurra. His cousin Warlimpirrnga had already made a name for himself as an artist and he encouraged Thomas to paint too. Thomas and Walala joined the Papunya Tula artists, and they and Warlimpirrnga eventually gained fame internationally as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers. Although he normally paints using Tjapaltjarri as a surname, Thomas' skin name is Tjapangati.

His paintings depict stories from the Pintupi dreaming. They are mostly about places and events in the Tingari cycle (a cycle of myths about the ancestors of the Pintupi). His designs are inspired by those painted on the body during ceremonies. He uses acrylic paints on canvas, sticking to earthy colours (black, white and ochres). He paints simple shapes with dotted lines, which is a style that his brothers also use.

He has had paintings shown in many exhibitions around Australia, and also in Switzerland, Germany, France and the United States. His larger paintings sell for at least AU$6000 in Alice Springs and AU$9500 in galleries in Melbourne and Sydney.


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