Bernard Tjalkuri was born in the bush at Waltja rockhole close to the homeland of Kunumata in the far north west of the Pitjantjatjara Lands of northern South Australia in 1930. Bernard’s mother’s country is Watarru and his father’s place is Aparatjara, which is located near Kanpi community.
Bernard lived a traditional nomadic life in the desert prior to contact with Europeans. He remembers seeing ‘whitefellas’ travelling through his country as they headed west to the Warburton Mission when he was a young man.
Bernard has authority to paint many stories tied to his country. He is an important community elder with a wealth of knowledge of lore or Tjukurpa. This cultural knowledge is handed down orally in the retelling of Tjukurpa (traditional stories of the ancestors’ journeys), which not only sustain Anangu (Aboriginal people) physically, but socially and spiritually. Paintings which hold Tjukurpa depict a fragment of a larger story, a living history where an ancestor was involved in creating country. Individuals have authority and ownership of this land and the associated sites and stories. The maintenance of country and Tjukurpa is paramount to artists of Watarru and they continue to care and manage the land with respect and responsibility.