Tarnanthi curator Nici Cumpston at the 2015 event with ex-PM Paul Keating and SA Art Gallery Director, Nick Mitzevich

Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 11.07.17

Dates: 13.10.17 : 28.01.18

Artistic Director, Nici Cumpston has announced highlights of the program for the biennial 2017 TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art , which returns to Adelaide this October.

There will be a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia, an art fair presented at Tandanya, National Aboriginal Cultural Institute and exhibitions across the city showcasing contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art from across the country, providing a platform for artists to share important stories and shed new light on their practise.

In 2017 TARNANTHI (pron.TAAnandi) will feature more than 1,000 artists at exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia and more than 20 partner venues, and the TARNANTHI Art Fair will feature over 40 art centres and individual artists from across the country.

The Festival’s vision, led by Barkindji artist and curator, Nici Cumpston, encourages new beginnings by commissioning artists to create significant new work and extend the practices that they have been developing in studios, art centres, institutions and communities.

Drawing on artists from across the nation, this year’s Festival will have a focus on the seven art centres that span the South Australian Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

“These artists are embodying the essence of breaking new ground with their art making. Through years of experience and presenting their work across the country, they are now driving their own practise to new levels. TARNANTHI presents an opportunity for me to listen to where the artists want to take their ideas and then support them to achieve their vision,’ said Ms Cumpston.

From the APY Lands:
Artists from Ernabella Arts (Pukatja), Tjala Arts (Amata), Mimili Maku Arts (Mimili), Iwantja Arts (Indulkana), Tjungu Palya (Nyapari), Kaltjiti Arts (Fregon) and Ninuku Arts (Kalka) are represented, including the forty-five artists who have come together to work on two monumental men’s and women’s collaborative paintings. These collaborative paintings will be accompanied by Robert Fielding’s black and white photographs portraying the artists involved in the creation of these works.

Amongst individual artist's works, suspended from a kulata (spear), Mumu Mike Williams’ paintings on repurposed canvas mailbags include handwritten statements in Pitjantjatjara about heritage, ownership and custodianship, as well as the conflict between Commonwealth law and Anangu lore.

The ongoing sharing of cultural knowledge has formed the basis of the APY Lands men’s collaborative installation Kulata Tjuta (Many Spears). In this major work, more than six hundred spears, made by men from each of the art centres across the APY Lands, will be suspended from the ceiling of the Art Gallery of South Australia above a group of piti (water carriers) made by the women. This large-scale installation depicts the impact of atomic bomb testing in Anangu Lands. The Kulata Tjuta project to involve young men in the communities' cultural life began with a smaller installation like this at an Adelaide Biennial.

Meanwhile, senior painter and ceramicist Pepai Jangala Carroll joins fellow Ernabella artist and potter Derek Jungarrayi Thompson for an exhibition entitled Mark and Memory, following a recent pilgrimage by the pair to their ancestral homelands in the central Western Desert.

Looking nationally:
From Alice Springs, the artists at Yarrenyty Arltere art centre will showcase Kulila, a group of embroidered soft sculptures which are self-portraits of the artists.

Up north, in the community of Maningrida, husband and wife team, Bob Burrawal and Lena Yarinkura are creating an immersive, multimedia installation based on real life events. The work details a terrifying encounter Bob had as a young boy with Namorrodo, a malevolent shooting star spirit prevalent in and around the rocky escarpment country of central Arnhem Land.

From Western Australia, NGURRA: Home in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, presented by the South Australian Museum, is an exhibition that explores the rich concept of Ngurra (Home) as expressed by the people of the Western Desert.

At its heart, TARNANTHI is a series of exhibitions, artists talks, performances and events, showcasing and celebrating contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. After the artistic triumph of 2015's inaugural Tarnanthi Festival, highlighted by its Spinifex art commissions and Yvonne Koolmatrie's evocative basketwork display in the Gallery, and Yirrkala's print retrospective, Bula'bula women's weaving, Papalunkutja's visual story-telling and Archie Moore's perfumes elsewhere around town, the major river to be crossed this time is a stronger performance program.

Once again, BHP has come to the party – in part to repay South Australia for the non-expansion of Olympic Dam.

Jacqui McGill, Asset President, BHP Olympic Dam says: “BHP is proud to be involved with TARNANTHI again after the success of the event in 2015. The extension of our partnership for a further five years means an even bigger celebration. The partnership provides sustainable economic streams for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that will make a difference for generations to come. We are excited to make this contribution as part of our long-term commitment to South Australia and our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

As McGill hinted, there will now be annual Tarnanthi events at the SA Art Gallery and a biennial festival around town. The full 2017 Festival program will be announced in August 2017.

URL: https://www.tarnanthi.com.au

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Reed weavings by Yvonne Koolmatrie hanging evocatively at the 2015 Tarnanthi Festival


Kulata Tjuta (Many Spears) at the 2015 Tarnanthi, an early iteration of the Pitjanjatjara project, projecting images on to a ring of bush spears


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