Nyarapayi Giles Gibson Desert WA, Australia, 1940-2019

Nyarapayi Giles was born in the Gibson Desert at an important cultural site called 'Karrku'. It is this site and the associated Tjukurrpa that inspires Nyarapayi's powerful and unique paintings. 


Giles was referred to as 'first contact', growing up with her family as original desert walkers, living a traditional nomadic life. This first-hand knowledge of indigenous culture is evident in their work. Giles spent her youth living the traditional nomadic life of her people until her family were moved from their land to settle in missions in the 1960s.


Giles's knowledge of the Inma (ceremonies) and Tjukurrpa (dreaming stories) associated with the country here is extensive. Nyarapayi settled in Tjukurla when the community was first established in the 1980s. Nyarapayi's paintings depict a site called 'Warmarungu' near Karku, her birthplace. This is where the ochres are collected for ceremonial use. In the dreaming times many emus went down into the rockholes and some took the form of trees. The ochre is excavated in a special way using a stick, and Nayarapayi paints the emu spirits which are released during this ceremony to again take physical form. Her paintings show the journeys of the emus in the dreaming times and the rock holes they stopped at.


Nyarapayi gained recognition as a key artist amongst her peers in the Contemporary Indigenous Art movement. Her works are collected by collectors and institutions in Australia and internationally including the British Museum, National Gallery of Victoria, Patrick Corrigan Collection, W & V McGeoch Collection and Sir Charles Gairdner Collection. She awarded first prize in the Sir Charles Gardner Award in 2008 and was a finalist in the prestigous Telstra Awards and Joondalup prize in the same year. Her work is on permanent exhibition on at the Queensland Art Gallery.


Giles was one of the respected elders of Tjukurla Community and passsed away in 2019.