Katjarra Butler



Born in




Lives in

Tjukurla Community




Ngaanyatjarra, Pintupi

Katjarra Butler was born in the bush c.1946 at a place called Kuun. When Katjarra’s mother was pregnant with her, a python (Kuniya) appeared in front of her. Katjarra’s mother killed the snake, and Kuniya became Katjarra’s totem animal. Katjarra lived with her family in the bush as a child and teenager. As a young woman, she married Anatjari Tjakamarra, and gave birth to her daughter Sally Tjimpuna Butler at the site of Wingarntjirri. The family lived a traditional nomadic lifestyle on their homelands northwest of Tjukurla, living off bush food and natural water sources. In the 1960s, Katjarra and her family were picked up near Kintore and taken to Papunya during a drought which forced many Western Desert peoples into contact with white settlers for the first time. For many years, Katjarra lived at Papunya, later moving to the Docker River settlement and then settling in Tjukurla after its establishment as part of the homelands movement of the 1980s. Katjarra began painting around 2001 and, along with other women in the community, helped to establish Tjarlirli Art in Tjukurla in 2006. Due to her seniority and wealth of knowledge, Katjarra is culturally responsible for many sites and stories. The works in this exhibition are demonstrative of this; Katjarra has depicted sites scattered all across her vast homelands, spanning hundreds of kilometres on the edge of the Gibson Desert. Katjarra’s work is both narratively and visually powerful, instantly recognisable through her signature gestural brushwork and powerful colour selection. She uses large round brushes to apply broad swathes of paint, rhythmically marking out geographical features - waterholes, mountains, sandhills and vast grasslands - with her entire body weight propelling the brush. Katjarra’s spirit is embodied in the power of her brushstrokes, as the broad fields of colour engulf the spectator and offer a momentary glimpse of Katjarra’s knowledge of the power and enormity of her Tjukurrpa.