Artist Profile

Helicopter Tjungurrayi

1st July 1947



Kukatja and English


Helicopter is well recognised as one of Warlayirti Artists’ leading artists and is a great ambassador for the Art Centre. Born at Nynmi, west of Kiwirrkurra, Helicopter learnt from a young age the location of water sources and how to hunt for bush food. When he was a young boy he became very sick and was brought into old Balgo mission in a helicopter that had been doing mining exploration work in the area. This was the first helicopter many of the people had seen and it is how he got his name. Helicopter is a Maparn (traditional healer) and is an active Law man.

Helicopter worked at the mission in Balgo, drilling for water, cutting timber for fencing, fixing the windmill and travelled widely during these days to pick up supplies from the Kimberley ports. It was also at Balgo mission that Helicopter met and married Napanangka Yukenbarri. Together they had six children and grew up another two of Napanangka’s children from her first husband. They were together until Napanangka died in 2003.

In the early 1990s Helicopter painted with Napanangka, not seeking any acknowledgement. Since 1994 Helicopter has been painting in his own distinctive linear style that emanates from the central feature of a soakwater. He paints the country where he was born: his father’s and grandfather’s country in the Great Sandy Desert/Gibson Desert area. Helicopter has travelled interstate and overseas for exhibitions of his paintings, including a trip to Tokyo, Japan in 2010 where he lead a team of Warlayirti artists to paint a brand new Audi as part of the Motika project.

Helicopter underwent surgery for cataracts in 2015, he has since recovered and developed his painting style continuing to create bold and dynamic contemporary art.