Punuku Tjukurpa - Anangu wooden artefacts, objects, culture and stories

08 April 2015


Image: Ivy Ingkatji, Piti. C. 1995.
Itara: River Red Gum, 710 x 195 x 290 mm.

Artworks and objects made by three generations of Anangu artists will feature in Punuku Tjukurpa, an exhibition being hosted by the South Australian Museum from 28 March-17 May 2015.

Presented by Artback NT, the Northern Territory’s visual and performing arts touring agency, and curated by the former Director of Maruku Arts, Stephen Fox, in collaboration with Artback NT, Maruku Arts and emerging curator Joanne S Cooley, Punuku Tjukurpa is the first touring exhibition of artworks from the Maruku Arts archive based at Mutitjulu, near Uluru in the Northern Territory.

The exhibition offers audiences the first opportunity to view work from this magnificent archive, representing Anangu artists for whom the tradition of wood carving, or punu, has been passed down. Integral to the imparting of these physical skills to the next generation is the teaching of stories, which form the basis for the intricate designs and markings known as walka.

Punuku Tjukurpa includes 88 carved objects made of wood, punu, alongside sculptural works, 2D pieces and specially produced audio and video footage. The title of the exhibition, Punuku Tjukurpa, describes the story and the law behind these works.

Artist Niningka Lewis said: “Ka punu nganampa tjuta palya ananyi tjana nyakuntjaku. Wiru nyangatja. Tjana nyakula kulilpai alatji palyalpai munu memory tjuta ngananana Kanyilpai”

Which translated means “It is good that our carvings should go out to the world for all to see – this is a good thing. People can see and understand how things are made and that we have a lot of memories [in our collection].”

Curator Stephen Fox said for the artists and their communities, looking at punu brings back memories ofpeople and good times going out collecting punu and sitting around fires to carve and burn designs with a hot wire.

Punu evokes the stories of the Tjukurpa but also personal memories of family, artists and the strength of their creative talents,” he said.

 South Australian Museum Director Brian Oldman said the exhibition provides an opportunity to support the important work of Anangu artists and further build the Museum’s ongoing relationship with their communities.

“As the Museum responsible for the largest and most comprehensive collection of Australian Aboriginal ethnographic material in the world, the South Australian Museum is keenly interested in providing a view into one of Australia’s finest art movements and celebrating the sharing of culture by the Anangu people,” he said

Punuku Tjukurpa will be at the South Australian Museum from Saturday 28 March to Sunday 17 May 2015.

The public is invited to join us on our front lawns between 11am and 1pm on Saturday 28 March, where exhibiting artists from Maraku Arts will present hands on demonstrations of the carving techniques used to create punu, as well as sharing traditional songs and sand drawing techniques.

Accessible tours for people who are blind or vision-impaired will also be provided throughout the duration of the exhibition.



This is an Artback NT touring exhibition developed in partnership with Maruku Arts. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. This exhibition has been audio described.


About the South Australia Museum

  • The South Australian Museum has been committed to making Australia’s natural and cultural heritage accessible, engaging and fun for over 150 years.
  • It is one of the most visited museums in Australia with over 800,000 visitors per year.
  • The Museum is responsible for the largest and most comprehensive collection of Australian Aboriginal ethnographic material in the world.
  • It is a leader in remote and regional community engagement.
  • The South Australian Museum is the highest performing research Museum in Australia, with its research output exceeding that off all other Museum’s in Australia by a factor of two. It wins annually $5.5 million in competitive grant funding and produces around 200 scholarly publications.
  • It is a world leader in its exploration of the earliest form of complex life (Ediacara).
  • It is the home of a world-renown environmental biology unit, which uses genetic research to understand the patterns of life on earth; this unit is visited by scientists from over 100 scientific institutions world-wide on an annual basis.