Jimmy Baker was born at Malumpa rockhole near Kanpi sometime around 1915.
Pintjutjara, as he was still known at the time, first encountered white man in the early 1920s. At the time, the family knew nothing of white man's existence and they thought they had seen monsters. The whole family took flight up a hill and hid in a cave. Actually, they had encountered a group of missionaries travelling via camel train from Ernabella mission in South Australia to Warburton in Western Australia. This chance meeting was to be the beginning of the family's association with the mission and eventually resulted in the family moving to the Ernabella when Jimmy was in his late teens.
Jimmy's first job at Ernabella was grinding flour and making bread and "big mob damper". Hence how he got his surname Baker. We can surmise that it was at Ernabella that he adopted the christian name of Jimmy. Later, Jimmy moved to Kenmore Park, a station near Ernabella where he was taught to fence. Fencing jobs took him from Kenmore Park all the way through Fregon and on to Mimili (Everard Park).
At some stage when at Mimili, Jimmy met his wife and took her back to Kenmore Park to live. He subsequently fathered three children, Anton, Kay Baker Tunkin and Marita, all of whom are artists in their own right and were leaders in the movement to establish Tjunga Palya artists.
Jimmy did not commence painting until 2004, however, he was already attracting attention by the time the 2005 Desert Mob exhibition was held in Alice Springs. In 2007, Jimmy was a feature artist in the National Indigenous Art Triennial `07: Culture Warriors Triennial Exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra.
Jimmy was custodian of the important Kalaya Tjukurpa (Emu Dreaming) as well as a number of other dreamings. Interestingly, in talking to Jimmy, he makes no distinction between himself and the emu in the story. The man and the dreaming are one. He is the emu.
Jimmy Baker passed away in 2010, succumbing to a chronic lung complaint. In his 90 or so years, Jimmy progressed from a frightened young boy who saw a monster on a camel to the Pitjatjantjara people's most important tribal man. During that period, he found the time to express a talent for art that made him one of Australia's most sought after and naturally gifted indigenous artists.
We have lost a great man and a great Australian.
Copyright Aboriginal Art World Pty Ltd