By ERWIN CHLANDA
While talk about an Aboriginal cultural centre in Alice Springs remains just that – talk, unless we are all being kept in the dark – and the Town Council is moving to plonk a multi-storey car park on the choicest piece of land in the town’s centre where the international tourist attraction could be located, Aboriginal artists from The Centre are the talk of the Australian art world.
They include people living in the town camps of Alice Springs and in the remote communities of the region.
While the show is national in its scope, desert artists are nonetheless providing the majority of the works on show in Tarnanthi, celebrating “the vibrancy and diversity of work” being created by contemporary Indigenous artists.
Pity that the showing place isn’t in Alice Springs but in Adelaide: the Art Gallery of South Australia, which boasts of Tarnanthi as the “most ambitious exhibition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in its 134-year history”. It is a fine example of what a permanent centre could be like.
The show, whose title in Adelaide’s Kaurna language means “to come forth or appear, like the sun and the first emergence of light, or a seed sprouting,” takes up several rooms as well as all of the gallery’s lower floor. It opened with fanfare in early October – with multiple partner exhibitions coinciding with the AGSA’s show, making a veritable festival of Indigenous art across the city – and continues to January 14.
It was like running into old friends, seeing the soft sculptures by artists from Yarrenyty Arltere (based at Larapinta Valley town camp.) Their installation mapped their town: the places important to them, such as the hospital, Congress, Yipirinya School and Woolies, but also the river when it runs and brings life to the desert in the form of plants, animals, “birds with song”.
Alice Springs-born and bred film-maker and artist Warwick Thornton gained international acclaim with his film Samson and Delilah. In ‘The Way of the Ngangkari’ he sees the thrill of Star Wars heroes in the powerful traditional healers (Ngangkari) of his own culture.
One of many large collaborative canvasses in the show, this one, Seven Sisters, is by artists from Tjala Arts based in Amata, South Australia: Yaritji Young, Sandra ken, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin, Tjungkara Ken.
Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra Artists, based in Alice Springs and painting in the Namatjira tradition, show the desert in another light: the softer hues of watercolour, the graceful swirl of dancers.
The painted wooden sculptures of footy players by Anmatyerre artist Dinni Kunoth Kemarre and the detailed colourful canvasses by his wife Joise Kunoth Petyarre celebrating the place of the game in the bush were given pride of place at the gallery – sees photos at top of the entrance, outside and in. In the gallery Kemarre and family show other figures from their repertoire.