Shedding new light on contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Tarnanthi is an annual celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and a flagship program of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Its format alternates between a statewide festival in one year and a major focus exhibition the following year. Since its inception in 2015, Tarnanthi has placed particular emphasis on the agency of artists and on foregrounding the artist’s voice. It is a rare showcase for the nuanced complexity and radical ingenuity of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, reflecting the strength of First Nations cultures across Australia today.
In 2020, Tarnanthi will involve an inspiring focus exhibition highlighting the work of senior women artists whose work includes passing on vital cultural knowledge to young women as the future leaders of their communities. As a significant artist-led project, this exhibition of works in diverse media promises to deliver the richness of content and depth of substance that have been the hallmark of Tarnanthi’s earlier focus exhibitions, such as John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new in 2017 and Riverland: Yvonne Koolmatrie in 2015.
During Tarnanthi, AGSA will also host an extensive array of talks, tours, performances, workshops, creative activities and student programs. The Studio will also adopt a theme emphasising a feature of the exhibition.
Tarnanthi is presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia with Principal Partner BHP and support from the Government of South Australia.
16 Oct 2020 - 31 Jan 2021
All those things, what they did a long time ago we still got it. Kids learn from that, you know from mother and from grandmother watching and learning and doing. I used to do that learning from my mother. I’m Alison Milyika Carroll. That’s my name. I’m from Ernabella. Long time ago, in our country there used to be desert flowers and lots of things growing, mai wiru (good food) like kampuṟarpa (bush tomatoes). That’s why we were thinking about putting it on a tank to show other peoples what the desert looks like. Inside the tank, it’s kapi, water. When the rain come, everybody get happy, you know, and they know the water holes are full of water. What they are running to that water hole they sing this song. That means – we’re swimming in the water. This song is from long time and it’s still kids singing this song. We used to go out and swim at the water holes get a donkey and ride back home on a donkey, you know? So we bought it together a desert and a kapi – water inside and the grass, weaving.
I was talking to the other ladies ‘can we make our wana (digging stick) and show that wana to young people to make wana?’ That wana is for digging to get maku and to get tjala, honey ants. Maku is witchetty grubs. This wana is very important for the old people. They use this wana for everything. We go to bush and we get the wana and then we clean it. Everyone is making the wana and the old ladies was talking to the young ones about that wana. There’s two – Wana for huntings and wana for culture, for ceremonies, for inma. Like dancing with wana. Then we put design on it – walka. Walka means the designs on the wana. We made the ceramic spears and we put wana and ceramic together. And that wana is important for is Aṉangu (people) for our future for our young people to take it, to carry on all those things from the past to see it and to know they still got it. They still got those things there, in their home.
Weaving is our way of connecting, I feel like it’s something that’s always been within me. It’s always been in our family and especially having something that was almost lost, having that back feels really good.
It’s been a long, long, long journey I guess of regenerating our weaving. Mum’s passed her weaving skills that she’s picked up along the way onto me and whenever we learn something new, we’ll share it with each other. We started looking into cyanotype as a way of documenting our work our own way and our weaving practices and country our own way. We’ve used our traditional weaving fibres from country so ungaire, which is our freshwater swamp reed, and talwalpin, which is the inner fibre from the cotton tree. And then we’ve combined them with quampie shells, eugaries and oyster shells representing the abundance of our saltwater country. It’s a really amazing process gathering materials from country and then letting the materials make their own artwork themselves with the sun and the winds.
Working collaboratively and about our four pieces coming together so I think that’s what the story’s about and the layers of meaning that go with that. And reflecting on the strength of our culture and our people and the resilience that goes with that.
I think it’s important to share our stories our way as Aboriginal people. It’s showing the, I guess like the connection of our weaving practices today. And working with the fibres that our grannies wove with. The water that surrounds our island connects us. That’s a really beautiful part of the cyanotype too is like that feeling and embodiment of the deep waters.
Listening to the sounds of country and feeling those footsteps of our ancestors and being able to reconnect again and also celebrate and share it. It’s been a really privileged experience to be working on a project around regenerating our Quandamooka weaving.
Sonja & Elisa-Jane Carmichael
I believe that our young people need to be heard I feel that they have so much to give and contribute to society but they can’t if our country’s holding them back to achieving the full potential.
So Coen is a small township but we like to call it a community because of how it’s made up with the six different clan groups. Coen came about by white people in the late 19th century to us Aboriginal people it was a police town that cornered us into a reserve. After a hundred or so years of being crushed by policy and the frontier wars we are still here and we are still surviving and our young people are here now and now they’re taking on an identity, leadership. They’re young, they’re black and they’re Indigenous and they’re showing this with pride.
My photography started a long time ago, I started working part time with the local land trust here. They had me going out photographing country and my people looking after it. So over time I got really comfortable with the camera and I started to take the camera out of work and into the community, down the streets into people’s home, along to social gatherings and just photographing everyone and anyone. Our stories are never told properly so I guess that’s why I wanted to take more pictures of my people. I started to photograph the youth more; I dunno there was something that got me drawn to them. I guess I’ve always found them quite, quite loud and very proud of who they are and I guess that’s how Adolescent Wonderland kind of came about. Just them, as a whole, as young people. What they represent, what they stand for, their heritage, their roots, their background, their individuality. They are filled with life. They fill this community with light and I wanted the rest of the country to see that; see who they really are as young, black, Indigenous people just enjoying their youthhood in remote Australia.
4-6 Dec 2020
From 16 Oct 2020