Willy Tjungurrayi was born at Patjantja, south west of Lake Mackay around 1930. Willy’s skin name and age makes him a brother of Brandy Tjungurrayi, as well as the older brother of George Tjungurrayi. He is the younger brother of Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi (now deceased). As did Brandy, Willy grew up in the bush raised by Charlie Tarawa, who was Willy’s father’s brother. He was raised ‘in the bush – naked’ with ‘only nulla nulla and woomera’. He was brought with his family to Haasts Bluff on Charlie’s camels in the late 1950s. He moved to Papunya where he started painting for Papunya Tula Artists in 1976. His country lies a short distance to the south west of Kintore – around Kulkuta, Tjukula, Warrabri, Malka, Yumari, Tjitikulpa and Patjanytja. In the early ’80s he joined the move back to the Pintupi homelands and lived with his family in Kintore.
In the 1980s he emerged as one of the senior Pintupi painters. He paints stories linked to the Tingari Song Cycles relating to these places. The artist’s senior position in his community entitles him to paint the most significant and secret parts of the Tingari stories, many of which cannot be revealed to the uninitiated. He tends to paint with a restrained palette (browns, oranges, dusky pinks and creams) typical of many of the Papunya artists. His recent work was comprised of irregular lines of very fine, pale dotting on a coloured background, resulting in subtle, elegant, linear images.
Willy passed away in 2018 after a long period at the Old Timers home in Alice Springs.