Born in 1956 at Haasts Bluff, Punata Stockman Nungarrayi is the eldest child of Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, one of the founders and one-time Chairman of Papunya Tula Artists. Her mother, Yintinaka Nampitjinpa (b. 1940) was the daughter of Ilyuna Nungarrayi and Yalitijayi, an older brother of the renowned Pintupi artist and fellow Papunya Tula founder Uta Uta Tjangala. Punata’s grandparents on her father’s side were Amnatyerre, but they were killed in the 1928 Coniston Massacre when her father was just a baby in a coolamon. Punata has two younger brothers who also live in Papunya: Adrian (b. 1959 Papunya) and Abraham (b. 1966 Papunya). With her husband Peter Major Tjangala, Punata had three daughters, twins Maggie and Sheila (b. 1977 Alice Springs Hospital) and Isobel (b. 1975) and two sons Farren (b. 1980) and Abrahem (b. 1983).
Punata spent her early childhood in Haasts Bluff and then went to school in Papunya. Her memory of her schooldays is that the teachers were “very strict” and they had to speak English in the classroom. Having trained for six months as a nurse’s aid in Darwin after leaving school, Punata was employed as a health worker in Papunya for twenty-one years. She finally left this job to assist with the care of her grandchildren.
In 1980, at a time when no women painted in their own right for the Papunya Tula company, Billy Stockman began teaching his daughters to paint. Punata remembers being told to “watch and learn”. Her mother was already helping her father with the background dotting of his paintings and there was discussion among the male painters about letting the women share the resources of the painting company “so they can teach our grandchildren with the paintings”. These days Punata looks upon her early efforts as “just practising”. It was much later that she began doing “private canvases”, which she sold to people working locally in Papunya “to help support all my grandchildren”. When Papunya Tjupi Art Centre opened its doors in 2007 Punata began painting regularly and is one of its most consistent and dedicated artists. In 2008 she was elected Chairperson of the organisation. Punata’s work has been acquired by the Janet Holmes à Court collection and her reputation grows both in Australia and overseas.