Culture in the Centre

This page provides links to past news and reviews on matters cultural, published in the Alice Springs News from 2020, starting with the most recent. It was previously the ‘Books & Arts’ page. The name change broadens its scope.



Mark by mark, finding his way

Not much bitumen, much more dirt – of the rusted earth kind – infuse Wayne Eager’s survey exhibition, Bitumen and Dirt, looking back over Eager’s three decades in the Northern Territory. The show allows us to to glimpse the artist’s process of finding his way with each new canvas or sheet of paper, writ large over years and a prolific output. Kieran Finnane reviews.


A day for men, and Arrernte future


Erwin Chlanda reports on the return of sacred Arrernte objects from the Manchester Museum.




Paris on stage, Brunswick in the auditorium


Oscar Perri on the Totem Theatre’s production of Jean Genet’s The Maids.




Artists answered pain with joy

Looking for answers to the social problems wracking their community, Yarrenyty Arltere Artists turned to their strengths. In the process, they have tapped a wellspring of joy and delight, sending out into the world, in the form of soft sculpture, a host of characters, ever more colourful and expressive. Kieran Finnane on the exhibition celebrating the 21 year history of this town camp art centre. 


A fest to open wide your heart and soul


Anna Georgia Rowse Mackay on her first experience of the Wide Open Spaces festival.





Two shows get to the heart of the matter

The times are more pressing than ever for artists to concern themselves with existential matters. Kieran Finnane considers two exhibitions that do just that, and in particular how two very different artists respond to the Earth as Mother and the threats she faces.



Gallery director unfazed by project’s record of conflict

The strongly-voiced demands of First Nations people that they take the lead in representing their cultures seem to have been ignored in the NT Government’s appointment of the inaugural director for their proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery. Born in the UK and raised largely in New Zealand, Tracy Puklowski is not Indigenous. How much of a barrier does she think this will be in leading the gallery’s development? Kieran Finnane interviews.

Breathe in the Brio’s exceptional air

An explosive sense of “who we are” radiates from the recent work by the Tennant Creek Brio, showing at Raft Artspace. It is as multi-faceted as the life experiences of these men, expressed with an urgency, a tough exuberance, a deep-seated knowing of what needs to be laid down and shown to whoever is willing to see. Kieran Finnane reviews. 

Book charts unique fusion of Arrernte world view and Catholic faith

In the last year of his life, Michael Bowden OAM wrote an account for the general reader about the phenomenon of Arrernte Catholicism. Called Unbreakable Rock, it centrally examines how, over decades, the relationship between the Catholic Church and Arrernte faithful has led to a unique blending of Arrernte and Christian beliefs and spiritual practices that serves not only Arrernte people but is putting its stamp on the broader Catholic experience in Alice Springs. Kieran Finnane reviews.

An artist’s New York

It’s hard to think about New York now without the looming shadow of the pandemic, but one thing Marina Strocchi’s exhibition New York, New Work does is take us back to the pre-Covid era – to the innocence of a time when you could look at New York and think about it in its iconic states. The icon she has chosen is the tall building. Kieran Finnane reviews.

Fighting not just to survive, but to flourish

“In framing the fracking issue, what are the films that need to be made?” Artist and filmmaker Rachel O’Reilly put the question to local First Nations activists Que Kenny and Roxanne Highfold, following the screening of O’Reilly’s Infractions at Watch This Space. Kieran Finnane reports on their wide-ranging responses.

“To their eyes it’s a town,” says one, “to our eyes, it’s a different vision, we see it as sacred. They see buildings, we don’t, we see places, things were there they can’t see.”

The speaker is one of a group of Arrernte Traditional Owners whose recorded conversations about Mparntwe and surrounds have been put together as an audio tour app called Awemele itelaretyeke, meaning “Listen to understand.” By Kieran Finnane with Fiona Walsh

2020, a year of adaptation and achievement for Bindi

A little suspected consequence of the pandemic year has been a reduced need for paper shredding. In the Bindi Contracts Room, where they usually run a  ‘Confidential Shredding’ business for clients around town, they had to adapt – it led them to art. 



Council goes to water on Willshire Street

Officers’ consultation on the name change missed by a wide mark not only the direction of councillors but the core of the information about the notorious police constable that led to them supporting the proposed change in June. Kieran Finnane reports.


Judging the Portrait of a Senior Territorian

“The message is an important one and one that many Territorians hold dear, including we three judges, but it is not what won the portrait the prize. Rather it is the achievement of artist and subject together in creating an image of profound conviction and determination. This is expressed in every fibre of John’s being, transmitted by all of Robyn’s skill with brush and paint,” writes Kieran Finnane, who this year judged the prize together with artists Marlene Rubuntja and Chips Mackinolty. 


For the worlds she stitches together, Marlene Rubuntja wins the Lofty

“Committed to art as a way of life, as a way to bring people together and as a way to rise people up so that the future in in their hands”, the artist was at first almost speechless: “I thought I came to see another person but it was me … I can’t believe it!” Kieran Finnane reports on the annual Lofty award recognising high endeavour in the arts in Central Australia and now in its 10th year.

Government is recruiting for the national Aboriginal art gallery

Jobs ads were placed in late November for a “senior director” for the NT Government’s proposed national Aboriginal art gallery. Applications closed December 6. The role is to “lead the delivery” of the embattled project. Kieran Finnane reports.  


The hard road that reshaped a mission

In late1977 Steve Swartz arrived in the Territory – a young man from small town Ohio, USA, with wife and infant son. From Darwin they headed out to Lajamanu, on a mission to translate the Bible into the local language, Warlpiri. That task would take Steve 23 years and test his mental and spiritual resilience almost to their limits. He spoke with Kieran Finnane on the occasion of publishing his memoir, Broken Pot.

Arrernte ambassador for the art gallery – but which one?

“A proud Eastern Aranda descendant” has been appointed as ambassador of the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre. But wait: That’s the project being pushed ahead by the South Australian Government in Adelaide. It’s not the one immobilised by the Northern Territory Government and Town Council in Alice Springs. Erwin Chlanda reports.


Race-based curfew – exhibition reminds town of not-so-distant past

“Between 1928 and 1964 effectively the whole of Alice Springs was a prohibited area for Aboriginal people between sunset and sunrise. Iits significance was driven home by some simple visual representations by Katy Moir, who describes herself as an artitect – trained as an architect, working mainly in the arts. Her exhibition, A hypothetical Alice, has just concluded at Watch This Space. Maps of all sorts provided its foundation, with the most impactful for many being a series on prohibitions, both historic and speculative,” writes Kieran Finnane.

Desert Mob in the year of Covid

“The instantly recognisable white-washed facade of the small church in the historic precinct is there, as it is in many images by Stockley, but in Inkamala’s work it stands less for the colonisers’ claim and more for the Western Aranda’s counterclaim, the way they have made that history their own, absorbed those introduced spiritual practices and narratives and vitalised them in their own language and guise,” writes Kieran Finnane.

Everyone’s got culture, it’s about who we are: Minister

“New NT Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chansey Paech takes a dynamic view of culture, that it is for the making, that our identities as Central Australians or Territorians are not fixed but rather fields for action, where the effect will be on the sense of who we are collectively,” reports Kieran Finnane.

A painter’s painter turns her eye on Hermannsburg

“Stockley, one of the Centre’s best known non-Indigenous artists, with a national profile, is a painter’s painter. Her primary interest in this show – and long-standing – is in ways of seeing, but her rigorous attention also distills something important about what the Hermannsburg Precinct represents,” writes Kieran Finnane.


Near and far, impending and uplifting

“These were my thoughts on a first tour of Suzi Lyon’s haunting exhibition, Travels on a distant star, showing at Watch This Space. I say ‘haunting’ because it has stayed with me, sweeping me up in its elegiac mood and ponderings at a vast scale,” writes Kieran Finnane.


Watercolour painting: learning from the best, one click away

It was a case of watch and emulate: two of the top painters from the ‘Hermannsburg School’, working in the tradition of Australia’s most famed watercolour landscape painter, Albert Namatjira, were leading a masterclass. Kieran Finnane reports.


Pine Gap: A tiny crack, but enough to let some light in

The Peace Pilgrims were breaching the spooky silence that often prevails around Pine Gap,” whose purpose the author advocates “should be out in the open,” offering for public discussion the role it “plays in lethal, illegal drone strikes against citizens of countries with whom Australia is not at war, and the human consequences of this lawlessness.” Erwin Chlanda reports on the launch of Kieran Finnane’s book, Peace Crimes: Pine Gap, national security and dissent.

Skateboarding closed the gap

Sport, food, entertainment, art, business, black, white, music, IT, drink, people with a spread of backgrounds, trade – all in one place? If you weren’t at Watch this Space last night you missed it: Alice Springs at its best. Erwin Chlanda reports.


Writing Peace Crimes – an interview

In this video film-maker John Hughes interviews Kieran Finnane about why she wrote Peace Crimes as part of a film he is making about the life and work of the late Desmond Ball, the foremost civilian expert on matters Pine Gap until his death in 2016. The film is called Twilight Time: Desmond Ball: the man who saved the world. The interview takes place at one of the locations on the edge of our town from where you can see the base. The video was compiled and edited by Fiona Walsh. It is embedded in the story.

Culture and country meet … skate-boarding

“I guess it’s not just a typical skate-board brand. This is about culture, country and lifestyle.” Kieran Finnane interviews Nicky Hayes on the creation of the Spinifex Skateboards brand, an enterprise in his home community of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa).


Street names, statues: why change matters

Acting on street name changes and on new public works commemorating Aboriginal heritage and history – why does change matter? And if it doesn’t happen now, then when? Kieran Finnane interviews Joel Liddle Perrurle, one of three authors of a recent article calling for a public commemoration of “unsung Arrernte heroes” in response to the statue of explorer John McDouall Stuart, erected by the Town Council in Stuart Park.

A room, a river, an island, a view

“If it’s an island though it will soon be swallowed in its own inundation – a roiling sea of green, a tsunami, ridden by two vultures, seemingly absorbed in conversation. Will they at any moment realise their impossible position and take off?” Kieran Finnane reviews Gabriel Curtin’s show, A river and a voice shouting above it. 


Colour a feature of winning Centralian architectural designs

Tangentyere Design won the Indigenous Community Architecture Award for the Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia Shelter. Many locals driving past the Telegraph Terrace site would have noticed the facade for its points of colour in the brickwork and the perforated metal screen adapted from an artwork by a former resident of the shelter.


Attuning readers to the tears of others

“Dani Powell’s debut novel, which digs deep into matters of grief, comes to our attention as waves of mass grief sweep around the planet.” Kieran Finnane reviews Return to Dust (UWAP, 2020).



‘Greener, safer, cooler’ CBD designs released

Even more CCTV and lighting in central Alice Springs but also street trees and shade structures are features of the NT Government’s design concepts, released today.


Your CBD, their plans

“At the eleventh hour, the public will finally see the designs for work intended to “revitalise” the CBD. So-called public consultation was conducted in 2017. I say so-called, because without the ability to influence the final outcome – which meaningfully would involve some feedback on the actual designs – the process undertaken needs another name.” Analysis by Kieran Finnane.


Country Liberal Party: custodians ignored on gallery

The Country Liberal Party’s announcement that it will build a national Aboriginal art gallery at the Desert Park does not overcome the project’s most significant obstacle to date: obtaining the backing of local Aboriginal people. Kieran Finnane speaks to the candidates.


‘What we see in our Country’: Yarrenyty Arltere 20 years on

As the coronavirus crisis broke upon us, the art centre was closed and the exhibition postponed until next year. It would have shown where this valiant group of artists on the Larapinta Valley / Yarrenyty Arltere Town Camp have come from.” Kieran Finnane speaks to some of the artists who are continuing to produce new work.


Native title organisation backs Anzac precinct for gallery

“Front bencher Dale Wakefield says a letter of support from the native title organisation Lhere Artepe is giving the NT Government the mandate to build the national Aboriginal art gallery in the Anzac precinct, even if it needs to compulsorily acquire the rugby oval from the Town Council.” Erwin Chlanda interviews the Minister.


Adaptive ingenuity: lessons for nation from Aboriginal artists

“Another perspective also weighed on my mind, that of the raging country-wide bushfire crisis that has dominated this summer.  In this context Tarnanthi and its artists offer a journey for mind and eye into hope,” writes Kieran Finnane.



Bearing witness to a mostly invisible world

“It makes sense that Shilton was working with men in the prison in Alice Springs at the time, immersed in their stories. Not because this book is about these particular men or their stories whatsoever but perhaps because of what immersion in a particular place might agitate in the unconscious.” Dani Powell reviews Leni Shilton’s Malcolm: a story in verse.