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Michael Nelson Jagamara

Region: Papunya-Northern Territory

Language: Warlpiri

Born: at Pikilyi, west of Yuendumu, 1949

MICHAEL NELSON JAGAMARA grew up in the bush, first seeing white men at Mt Doreen Station. He remembers hiding in the bush in fear.

Michael lived at Haast Bluff for a time with the same family group as Long Jack Phillipus (one of the original Papunya Tula Artists).

Later his parents took him to Yuendumu for an European education at the mission school.

He left school at thirteen, then after initiation, worked buffalo shooting, driving trucks, droving cattle, before coming back to Yuendumu and then to Papunya to settle and marry his current wife Marjorie.

Whilst living at Papunya and working for the council he would walk past the painters camp on his way to work and see the painters working on their canvases.

He became interested in the work these original Papunya Tula artists were producing and he asked the permission of these community elders to become an artist and to paint his dreamings.

His first painting was done with his Uncle Old Jack Juppurrurla. He spent several years learning from the renown-founding artists of the Papunya Tula group Kaapa, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum and Long Jack Philipus.

In the early 1980s he became an artist in his own right with Papunya Tula.

Michael Nelson Jagamara is now one of the most famous and prolific Aboriginal Artists of Australia.


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Michael paints Possum, snake, Two Kangaroos, Five Dreamings, Flying Ant and Yam Dreaming for the area around Pikilyi.

In 1984 he won the National Aboriginal Art Award, in 1986 he exhibited in the Biennale of Sydney and was included in the State of Art, a British Art documentary.

In 1987 an 8-metre painting was commissioned for the foyer of the Sydney Opera House.

In 1988 he was introduced to the Queen at the opening of the new National Parliament as the designer of the 196 sq meter mosaic in the fore court of the building.

In 1993 he received the Australian Medal of Services to Aboriginal art and an Artist’s Fellowship, Visual Art Board, Australian Council.

Solo Exhibittion: 1989-1990 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne and 1993 Utopia Art, Sydney.

COLLECTIONS:Parliament House, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Holmes a’ Court, Australian Museum, Sydney, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of W.A. Museum and Art Gallery’s of the Northern Territory.