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Topsy Tjulyata
Born 1931
Nationality Australian
Occupation Sculptor, craftswoman, painter
Years active 1980 – present
Organization Maṟuku Arts
Style Pokerwork, Western Desert art
Spouse(s) Walter Pukutiwara
Children Rene Kulitja

Topsy Tjulyata is an Aboriginal artist from central Australia. She makes wooden objects, known in Western Desert languages as puṉu. She makes these by carving the wood and then engraving patterns (walka) into its surface with a burning wire. This technique is called pokerwork. The wood she uses is sourced locally from the area around Uluṟu, where she lives. She makes both decorative sculptures and traditional tools. The patterns engraved into the objects depict Tjukurpa, spiritual stories about creation ancestors from the Dreamtime.

Topsy began working in arts and crafts at Ernabella in the late 1940s. She specialised in wood carving. While she was living there, she married Walter Pukutiwara, a shepherd who also crafted tools. They later moved to Amaṯa.

In 1981, Topsy and Walter went to Uluṟu and set up a tent at the base of Uluṟu. From there they sold their puṉu works to tourists for over two weeks. They did this trip with other artists from Amaṯa, including Pulya Taylor and Tony Tjamiwa, and their friends Peter Yates and Pat D'Arango. In 1983, this group travelled around to artist communities in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. This was to discuss the idea of setting up a new craft centre at Uluṟu that would sell artworks from around the region to tourists. The couple moved to Muṯitjulu so that they could help set up Maṟuku Arts. Topsy and Water were some of the first artists for the centre, and worked together closely until Walter's death in 2004. Topsy is still a member of the organisation's Governing Committee.

A collection of wooden bowls made by Topsy are held in the National Gallery of Australia. The patterns engraved on the surfaces depict stories about the Seven Sisters. Both the Powerhouse Museum and the National Museum of Australia contain examples of Topsy's sculptures. The sculptures are of Wati Ngiṉṯaka, the perentie man.

This article includes text from the Powerhouse Museum, Australia, which has been licensed under CC-BY-SA.
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