Yunkurra Billy Atkins
Yunkurra was born at Weld Springs, also known as Well 9 on the Canning Stock Route. He grew up in the country around Wiluna, but returned north to his traditional country, which includes Lake Disappointment, Savory Creek and Jilakurru; closer to Well 24 on the Canning Stock Route. Yunkurra is a very knowledgeable senior Martu man and an authority on these important Martu places. He narrowly avoided being taken away by missionaries as a child and subsequently grew up with elderly people, learning about country in the traditional way. Yunkurra now lives at Jigalong, close to his home country.
Yunkurra has been painting for longer than other Martu artists and has worked as an independent artist since the early 2000s, painting and carving. His work was selected for the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and in 2004 he held a solo exhibition of his work at the Courthouse Arts Centre and Gallery in Port Hedland. The National Gallery of Australia has purchased his work and in 2005 he participated in an artists exchange program through the Wilin Centre at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. Yunkurra has been instrumental in the establishment of Martumili Artists and continues to participate in group exhibitions. He has played a central role in the development of painting practice in the Martu communities and as a senior artist and creative innovator he has made works in many mediums, including recording a hip-hop track.
Photograph courtesy and copyright Tobias Titz.