Born Pikilyi, west of Yuendumu, Northern Territory, Australia c.1949


A senior Warlpiri man, Michael Nelson Tjakamarra worked on the land culling buffalo and droving cattle before arriving at Papunya in 1976. It was almost a decade before Tjakamarra seriously took up painting by which point he had absorbed the techniques used by artists in his community. Using the dot technique characteristic of painting at Papunya, Tjakamarra depicts subjects pertinent to himself and the Pikilyi region including kangaroo and possum stories and yam Dreaming.

Early in his painting career, Tjakamarra received a number of honours. In 1984 he was awarded the first National Aboriginal Art Award from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and for the 1988 Bicentenary of Australia he was commissioned to design a mural for the Sydney Opera House as well as a mosaic for New Parliament House, Canberra. Tjakamarra was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1993.

Tjakamarra has held several solo shows in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and has been included in a number of group exhibitions including Shoosh: The History of the Campfire Group, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2005); Crossroads – Towards a New Reality: Aboriginal Art from Australia, the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan (1992); and Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2000).

His work is represented in collections of the National Gallery of Australia, most state galleries, the Australian Museum and Parliament House, Canberra.