Topsy Tjulyata

Topsy Tjulyata
ResidenceMuṯitjulu, Northern Territory
OccupationSculptor, craftswoman, painter
Years active1980 – present
OrganizationMaṟuku Arts
StylePokerwork, Western Desert art
Spouse(s)Walter Pukutiwara
ChildrenRene Kulitja
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Topsy Tjulyata is an Aboriginal artist from central Australia. She makes wooden objects, known in Western Desert languages as Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found.. She makes these by carving the wood and then engraving patterns (Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found.) into its surface with a burning wire.[1][2] This technique is called pokerwork. The wood she uses is sourced locally from the area around Uluṟu, where she lives. She makes both decorative sculptures and traditional tools. The patterns engraved into the objects depict Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found., spiritual stories about creation ancestors from the Dreamtime.

Topsy began working in arts and crafts at Ernabella in the late 1940s. She specialised in wood carving.[1] While she was living there, she married Walter Pukutiwara, a shepherd who also crafted tools. They later moved to Amaṯa.

In 1981, Topsy and Walter went to Uluṟu and set up a tent at the base of Uluṟu. From there they sold their Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found. works to tourists for over two weeks.[3] They did this trip with other artists from Amaṯa, including Pulya Taylor and Tony Tjamiwa, and their friends Peter Yates and Pat D'Arango.[4] In 1983, this group travelled around to artist communities in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. This was to discuss the idea of setting up a new craft centre at Uluṟu that would sell artworks from around the region to tourists. The couple moved to Muṯitjulu so that they could help set up Maṟuku Arts.[5][6] Topsy and Water were some of the first artists for the centre,[5] and worked together closely until Walter's death in 2004. Topsy is still a member of the organisation's Governing Committee.[1][7]

A collection of wooden bowls made by Topsy are held in the National Gallery of Australia. The patterns engraved on the surfaces depict stories about the Seven Sisters.[2] Both the Powerhouse Museum and the National Museum of Australia contain examples of Topsy's sculptures. The sculptures are of Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Language/data/iana scripts' not found., the perentie man.[1][8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "2004/15/3 Carved animal, 'Ngintaka' (goanna)". Powerhouse Museum, Australia. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tjulyata, Topsy". Collection Online. National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  3. "From a speech by the Member for Stuart, Dr Peter Toyne, MLA" (PDF). Hansard of the 9th Assembly of the Northern Territory Government. 1 December 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  4. Template:Cite book
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wells, Kathryn (February 2011). "Clive Scollay, Maruku Arts, Punu work: history, tradition and innovation, interview". Craft Australia. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  6. Hodge, Su; James, Judith and Lawson, Amanda (September 1998). "Miles ahead: marketing that works in regional Australia" (PDF). Australia Council. p. 40.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. Finnane, Kieran (27 October 1999). "Bucks and bouquets: centre's art goes overseas". Alice Springs News.
  8. "Works by Topsy Tjulyata". Collection Online. National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
This article includes text from the Powerhouse Museum, Australia, which has been licensed under CC-BY-SA.

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