29 September 2016
Yesterday I flew from Alice Springs to Tjukurla in the north east corner of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Western Desert of Central Australia.
When you’re on the same plane as the mail, you stop at Docker River, Patjarr, Tjirrkali, Warburton, Wanarn and Warakurna along the way, so I was lucky enough to witness the vast expanses of desert country that makes up the NPY Lands. I watched the land change dramatically, the colour bleached by hot sun, as the heat of the day set in.
Having worked with artists and artwork from this part of the world, this flight helped me understand Ngaanyatjarra art in a new way. In a way that wasn’t conceptual, not about positioning it within a western understanding, or a ‘white cube’ understanding of Indigenous art, but within the context of the works’ relationship to the physical world, and to all that exists within it.
These paintings, punu (carvings) and tjanpi (weavings) are of Country, are made from Country and occupy both the ancient and the here and now simultaneously; they are bridges between worlds and across time.
I’m so excited about learning more from the Ngaanyatjarra mob over the next year, on the deep, personal and spiritual significance of their vast and spectacular Country, the incredible art and culture that emerges from this part of the world and the life that Ngaanyatjarra lead.
Selfies are a huge thing in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, particularly with the next generation of artists. The South Australian Museum is working on an exciting collaboration with Ngaanyatjarra communities, which will look at the importance of self-portraiture as a way of representing collective identity and self-hood.
This is me with Nyarapayi Giles, Katjarra Butler and Fiona Young painting up a storm in the background.