Turkey Tolsen Tjupurrula
Turkey Tolsen was born c.1938 about five miles (8 km) east of Haasts Bluff. Turkey’s family had been moving between traditional country around Kintore and Hermannsburg mission, where they collect rations of flour, tea and sugar, and after Turkey’s birth they remained in the area around Haasts Bluff. Only when Papunya was being established and there was work to be had building the settlement did the family come in from the bush.
This was in 1959, shortly after Turkey’s initiation to manhood. Turkey was employed as a labourer on construction work around the new settlement and also in the Papunya communal kitchen. Later he married and moved to an outstation west of Papunya. His first wife died, and he remarried and later moved to Kintore in 1983. At one stage he worked an outstation on his traditional lands at Yuwalki, to the southeast of Kintore. He was Chairman of Papunya Tula Artists and one of the best known of the company’s artists, Turkey Tolsen was one of the youngest of the original group of painters at Papunya. While some of his work is amongst the most innovative and figurative of that of all the Papunya Tula artists, he also paints in the classical, severely traditional Pintupi style of circles and connecting lines.
He was artist-in-residence at Flinders University in 1979 with David Corby, and paints Bush Fire, Emu, Snake, Woman and Mitukutjarrayi Dreamings from his traditional country south of Kintore around Yuwalki, Mitukutjarrayi and Putjya Rockhole. The artist and his work featured in ‘East/West: Land in Papunya Paintings’ at Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide, 1990. The opening, including Turkey’s speech and other interview material with the artist, is included in the documentary ‘Market of Dreams’. Turkey’s daughter-in-law, Brenda Rowe, has been painting since 1989.
This painting, completed in 1995 is the Snake Dreaming and Fire Dreaming stories. The artist has depicted the snake, an animal with totemic significance, moving across the earth during the burning time, when Pintupi men would start bush fires as part of the regenerative course of their seasonal life. The circle within the sanke is almost certainly a sacred site for men associated with the Snake Ancestor.
Turkey was among the first group of Pintupi to be brought in to the newly established settlement of Papunya in the 60’s. He was part of the original group of painters at Papunya in 1971.
Holmes à Court Collection
National Gallery of Victoria
Victorian Centre for the Performing Arts
Art Gallery of WA
Art Gallery of SA
National Museum of Australia, Canberra
University of WA Anthropology Museum
Flinders University Art Museum
Darwin Supreme Court
Holmes à Court Collection