Born c. 1944 in Pitjantjatjara country round Ernabella in SA, William grew up walking around the country south of Ernabella and also further north around Hermannsburg, Areyonga and Haasts Bluff. Eventually the family settled at Ernabella where William attended the mission school. From here William came to Papunya in 1973 and married Violet Nakamarra. They raised four children, a boy and three girls, one adopted. From the time of his arrival in Papunya settlement, William worked for the Papunya Council. In the late ’80s, he and his wife worked as healthworkers with the Papunya Medical Service. He first painted in 1975, teaching himself after watching the other artists at work. In the early ’80s he began painting regularly for Papunya Tula Artists. In 1985 he won the Caltex/NT Art Award. His work was included in the Dreamings show which toured the USA in 1988-9, and in the subsequent show of Papunya Tula artists at the John Weber Gallery in New York. He had a solo exhibition in 1990 at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. Since the early 1990s, William has concentrated on his painting full time. William’s wife, Violet Nakamarra, also painted occasionally. William’s subjects are Dingo, Emu, Woman, Green Bean and other Dreaming stories for his father and grandfather’s country.

Johnson, Vivien Note: primary biographer
Date written:
Last updated: