Tommy May (Ngarralja) | Artist Profile

Details of Tommy May (Ngarralja)


Ngarralja is a Wangkatjunga/Walmajarri man. He was born at Yarrnkurnja, in the Great Sandy Desert. He dances and sings Kurtal, a cermony relating to the main jila (living waterhole) in his country. He is also a painter and printmaker.

He is now referred to as Karrayili which means middle aged person. He is not yet an elder but he has been given the job of spokesman by his old people. He is fluent in both Wangkajiunga and Walmajarri languages as well as English. He also writes Walmajarri. He was one of the first people to start up the Karrayili Adult Education centre because he wanted to learn to read and write his own language and English.
"I was big when I left my country. I was already hunting by myself. I was with my young brother and my mother. My father had passed away by this time. I know these stories and these places in my country. We are not allowed to paint that story for other people's country. We will get killed or into trouble if we do this. We put that easy story, not a really hard story like law business. We can't paint that either. I first saw paintings in caves. I learned alot from people, mostly my father and grandfather. I was living all around in my country, camping all around. Wurna juwal, always moving. When I paint I think about this. My work is now like my drawing for printmaking, straight onto the tin, sometimes wood, using a knife or pens. I work everyday, and I've travelled a lot with the paintings. Singapore, Houston, Washington DC, like that."

He is an important person for arts and culture in Fitzroy Crossing and was the formal Deputy Chairman of Mangkaja Arts and formal Chairman of Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC).
Ngarralja was also an executive for the Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) Board of Directors, and was a contributing artist to the Ngurarra Canvas used in the successful native title claim.

He lives with his children at Mindi Rardi Community, Fitzroy Crossing.

Pulany Jirtirl ngapa jila [living waterhole] Louisa Downs country
Yarrngkurrnja hill
Ngarrangkarni [Dreamtime] stories Karntawarra in the Great Sandy Desert Country from east of the Canning Stock Route
Mukurrutu waterhole in the Great Sandy Desert
Purrkarra rockhole in the Great Sandy Desert
Tali [sandhill], jumu [soakwater] and bush foods from the Great Sandy Desert

2017 Ngarralija Tommy May - On Tin, Raft South, Hobart, Tasmania
2016 Gimme Shelter - A Survey Show from the Artists of Fitzroy Valley, Short St Gallery, Broome, WA
2016 Wurna Juwal ReDot Gallery Singapore
2009 Luka (Mud) with Dorothy May Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC
2007 Jilji Jaa Martuwarra with Dorothy May Brigitte Braun Gallery, melbourne, VIC
2007 Lau Lau, Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne

2017 NATSIAA, MAGNT, Darwin, NT
2017 Tanarnthi art Gallery of South Australia, SA
2017 Trace Elements Courthouse Gallery, Port Headland, WA
2016 Scratching the Surface, IDAIA, Sydney NSW
2016 Gimme Shelter, Short St Gallery, Broome WA
2016 Masterpiece Art Fair, JGM Art, London, UK
2015 Hedland Art Award Courthouse Gallery, Port Hedland, WA
2015 New Frontiers Linden New Art, St Kilda, VIC
2015 Everybody's Prints Nomad Art, Darwin, NT
2014 Broken Hill Art Prize Broken Hill, NSW
2014 City of Hoart Prize Hobart, TAS
2012 Mangkaja Arts 21 Year Anniversary Tandyana, Adelaide, SA
2012 Couples Suzanne O'Connel Galley, Brisbane, QLD
2012 Prints, Paper, Canvas Nomad Art, Dawrin, NT
2012 Emerging Better Worls Arts, Sydney, NSW
2011 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Darwin, NT
2011 Jumu & Wanirri Brigitte Braun Gallery, Melbourne, VIC
2009 Mangkaja Artsists 60 x 60 Randell Lane Fine Art, Perth, WA
2009 Mangkaja Survey Show, Short St Gallery, Broome, WA
2009 Senior Artists from Fitzroy Crossing, Suzanne O'Connel Gallery, Brsibane, QLD
2008 More Than a Few Good Men, Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Brisbane
2007 Jilji Jaa Martuwarra, Bridgette Braun Gallery, Melbourne
2007 Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle Arts Centre, WA
2006 Impressions 2006. limited Edition prints by leading contemporary artists, Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne
2005 This is Still My Country: Ngurrara Canvas, Artplace, Perth
Perth Concert Hall, Perth International Arts Festival
2003 Jila, Juma, Jiwari & Wirrkuja, University of Western Australia
Murrkunkura Ngarrangkarnijangka Ngurrara: Three men's countries from the Dreamtime, Raft Artspace, Darwin
2002 Native Title Business - Contemporary Indigenous Art, national Traveling Exhibition
The 16th Asian International Art Exhibition, Guangdond Museaum of Art, Guangzhou, China
Group Show, Flinders lane Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Ngurrara Canvas, National Gallery of Australia
Mangkaja Arts Ten Years On, Tandanya, Adelaide
18th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Impressions! An exhibition of prints, Coomalie Centre, Batchelor, NT
Group Show, Australian Print Workshop Gallery, Melbourne
2000 Fremantle Print Awards, Fremantle Art Centre, Perth
People in Landscape:Contemporary Australian Prints, Cultural Centre of the Philippines, Manila
Proof Positive, Gold Treasury Museaum, Melbourne
Cutting Comments: Contemporary Lino cut Prints 1995-98, Silk Cut Award Traveling Exhibition
1999 Story Boards: ceramic Tiles form the Kimberley, Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth
1998 Group Show, Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
1997 Heritage Commission Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra
1996 Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle Art Centre, Perth
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museaum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Heritage Commission Art Award, Old Parliament House, Canberra
Mangkaja Paper Works, Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide
1995 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Gallery of Northern
Territory, Darwin. Selected to tour nationally with the first NATSIAA travelling exhibition
1995 Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle Art Centre
1995 Prints from the APW Collection, Survey show of recent works from the APW archive, Australian
Print Workshop, Melbourne
1994 Ngarakura Ngurrara Minyarti, This is my Country, Festival of Perth Exhibition, Artplace Gallery, Perth
1993 Images of Power, Aboriginal Art from the Kimberley, National Gallery of Victoria

2015 Feature Film: Putuparri and the Rainmakers
2009 FORM and the National Museum of Australia
Canning Stock Route Project: Ngurra Kuju Walyja [One Country One People]
2007 Art Gallery NSW
One Sun One Moon, Aboriginal Art in Australia
2006 Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC) NEW LEGEND: A Story of Law and Culture and the Fight for Self-Determination in the Kimberley
2005 Exhibition Catalogue: Red Dot Gallery, Singapore
Surprise; Cory and Friends
2004 National Gallery of Victoria
Colour Power: Aboriginal art post 1984
2004 University of Western Australia / Berndt Museum of Anthropology
ON TRACK: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Western Australia
2003 Exhibition Catalogue:
Cullity Gallery UWA Perth / Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Martuwarra and Jila [River and Desert]
2003 Martuwarra and Jila, Jumu, Jiwari and Wirrkuja, Exhibition Catalogue ,Cullity Gallery, UWA Perth/Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Australian Art Collector. Review/Maurice O'Riordan
The Painted Desert: The fate of an Aboriginal Masterpiece, New Yorker Magazine July 28, 2003
2002 Native Title Business Contemporary indigenous Art. Joan Winter. Gurang Land Council. Regional Galleries Assn QLD
Kurtal; Snake Spirit.Video Documentary/ABC Television
2000 Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art,Oxford University Press & ANU
Karrayili The history of Karrayili Adult Education Centre, IATSIS Canberra
2001 Painting Up Big, The Ngurrara Canvas, Kaltja Now National Aboriginal Culltural Institiute - Tandanya
18th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
People in Landscape. Contemporary Australian Prints. Exhibition Catalogue. University of Melbourne
16th Asian International Art Exhibition. Exhibition Catalogue. Australian Print Workshop Inc.
1998 Jila Painted Waters of the Great Sandy Desert, Video Documentary/SBS Television
1994 Ngajakura Ngurrara Minyarti, This is My Country, Exhibition Catalogue

Kluge Ruhe Museum of Aboriginal Art - Charlottesville USA
National Museum of Australia
National Gallery of Victoria
Curtin University Collection, Perth
Queensland State Art Gallery Berndt
Museum of Anthropology Australian Print Workshop
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Carleton College Art Collection, Northfield Minnesota
Kennesaw State University Little
Creatures Collection Fitzroy Crossing
High School Fitzroy Crossing Hospital

Finalist Alice Price 2018
Finalist Port Headland Art Award 2017
Finalist NATSIAA - General Painting 2017
Finalist Bunbury Art Prize 2017
2017 Finalist, NATSIAA, MAGNT, Darwin, NT
Port Hedland Art Award, Best work in a medium other than painting 2015
Regional Arts Australia Volunteer Awards, sustained contribution 2010

2012 Fitzroy Crossing Police Station
2010 Fitzroy Valley High School
2008 Fitzroy Valley Education Centre – Panels Project
2008 Fitzroy Crossing Hospital - paintings on canvas, foyer design
2010 Fitzroy Crossing Swimming Pool
2012 Fitzroy Crossing Police Station – Glass Panels

Ongoing – Senior Advisor of Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
2007-2009: Men’s Chairperson: Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC)This position required Ngarralja Tommy May to: Represent KALACC to assist and promote the ceremonies, songs and dances of the Kimberley people to encourage and strengthen the social, cultural and legal values and ensure the traditions are given deserved recognition in Australian society
Representative of KALACC on the National Heritage Board for theKimberley Land Council (KLC)This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to:Sit on the Board as a special advisor to the KLC on Heritage matters in the Kimberley.
1987-2008: Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA)
Positions held:Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Ordinary Director, Stand-In Director
2006-09: Cultural Liaison Officer
Canning Stock Route Project
2005: KALACC representative with Wayne Bergmann
Met the King and Queen of Sweden in Perth and dined with them to discuss the importance of repatriation.
1998: KALACC representative
Visited Parliament House in Canberra with Joe Brown
Member of the Indigenous Reference Group on Intellectual Property
This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to:Travel to workshops to advise and develop policy on Indigenous copyright issues Represent the views of local Aboriginal people at conferences in relation to Indigenous copyright issues Hold meetings locally to let people know about the issues discussed at the reference group meetings
Founder of Mangkaja Arts and Deputy Chairman
This position requires Ngarralja Tommy May to: Act on behalf of the Chairman in his absence Provide leadership to the executive Provide direction to the manager

Artworks of Tommy May (Ngarralja)