Imagine being born into a culture that for centuries had no books nor any written word, or printed maps to learn from. The thought is almost inconceivable and begs the question: but how would you learn anything? Then you stand in front of a seemingly abstract painting and after a little expert explanation you see it – the land from above, people, waterholes, rockhole sites and maps of the country below.
For centuries story telling has been the way of learning for Indigenous Australians who today continue to introduce us to their fascinating culture through art - a culture which has survived through a great respect of the land and its living creatures by way of mythology and handed down knowledge, all via the spoken word.
Paintings expressing these stories will feature at Artitja Fine Art’s exhibition NGANAMPA NGURA, NGANAMPA TJUKURPA Our Land, Our Stories opening on 22nd October at Earlywork in South Fremantle.
“The land is part of everyday life for Indigenous Australians” explains Anna Kanaris, gallery Director “Aboriginal people know how to read every inch of their ‘country’, how it came to be and how to survive its harshness.”
Three communities will be represented at this exhibition – all from the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) lands – or the tri-border states – the region where three States meet : WA, NT and SA.
“The Indigenous people’s borders traditionally are not ours, their country’s borders are different to ours and are connected to their ancestors and sacred beliefs” says Kanaris.
Some of the paintings are complex stories of the geography of the land, and involve travelling tracks and stories associated with different times. The symbols and markings used tell the story of where waterholes and underground creeks are and can include sacred territory.
“There can be a secret sacredness in an artist’s painting and that part of the story cannot be divulged, it is personal and vital to the artist in a different way to our perception of the sacred, however the paintings still carry a lot of meaning and of course an aesthetic pleasure” explained Kanaris.
Opening the exhibition will be former Art Gallery of WA, Indigenous Art Curator Clothilde Bullen, now an independent Curator and past recipient of the prestigious British Council’s ACCELERATE leadership award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The exhibition will include paintings by renowned artists such as Maringka Baker and Pepai Carroll and exciting newcomers Clarice Tunkin and Rosalind Tjanyari.
Exhibition Curator, Anna Kanaris will conduct a floor talk on Saturday 24 October at 2pm.
Included in the exhibition will be several exquisite bush sculptures by 2015 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award finalist Janine McAullay Bott whom Artitja Fine Art have represented since 2006.
McAullay Bott however will be unable to attend the opening as she will be in Quebec City, Canada as a special guest and participant of the Musees de la Civilisation, at an important international exhibition which includes a selection of Australia’s high profile Indigenous artists.
Artitja Fine Art
Anna Kanaris and Arthur Clarke established Artitja Fine Art in 2004, inspired by a love of the art and a deep respect for ancient Australian Aboriginal culture and tradition. “Our aim is in connecting cultures through the art. Quality Aboriginal art is not just beautiful, it provides insights into Indigenous stories and Tjurrkupa (dreamings). Within Australia and internationally, the art plays an important role as a medium for connection between very different cultures.”