Kaapa Tjampitjinpa/Mpetyan was one of the founding artists of the Western Desert Art Movement in the early 1970s. He was born and grew up close to his mother's country on Napperby Station and identified with the Emu dreaming from the nearby country of Arleyepmw, in the Anmatyerr language speaking area. His father's country however was further to the northwest in territory of the neighbouring Warlpiri speaking communities. Early in his life Kaapa worked as a stockman on Napperby, Narweitooma and nearby other nearby cattle stations alongside some of the other Anmatyerr/Warlpiri artists that came to prominence in the painting movement, such as Clifford Possum, Tim Leura, Billy Stockman and Dinny Nolan.

Kaapa’s early artistic work included representational carvings and watercolour landscapes (seemingly based on precedents by Albert Namatjira), but it was his creation paintings that realistically represented ritual objects and ceremonies on canvas that broke new ground. In August 1971 he was awarded the first prize in the Caltex Art Award in Alice Springs and opened the public's eyes to a new style of artistic form and practice. In 1972 he was made Chairman of the Papunya Tula Artist group. His work remains highly significant as a catalyst for contemporary Central Australian art and has featured in numerous exhibitions charting the development of the Western Desert Art movement.


Bardon, Geoff. Papunya: A Place Made after the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement. Carlton, Vic: The Miegunyah Press, 2004.

Kean, John. “Catch a Fire.” In Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert, edited by Philip Batty and Judith Ryan, 43-57. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011.

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