Tarnanthi is led by Artistic Director Nici Cumpston, AGSA’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Of Afghan, English, Irish and Barkindji heritage, Nici is a descendant of the Darling River people of northern NSW and is culturally affiliated with the River Murray people in South Australia. Her career has been characterised by working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to bring new work and new ways of seeing to wider audiences.
Under Nici’s direction since 2015, Tarnanthi has set a benchmark in best practice with its commitment to working with First Nations artists and communities respectfully, ethically and in culturally appropriate ways. Projects are artist-led, with the artist always in control. Consultation is continual, deep listening is vital.
Whether talking with artists, supporting their projects or presenting their completed works of art, Tarnanthi follows five guiding principles: Let the artist’s voice shine; Open mind and open heart; Challenge perceptions; Artistic excellence; Grow, share, respect.
Tarnanthi’s approach has helped to empower artists and expand aspirations, careers and livelihoods. It has shaped how AGSA and partner organisations build enduring, respectful relationships with artists and communities. And it is improving understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture in Australia and around the world.