A celebratory exhibition this month fell victim to the pandemic response. It would have shown where this valiant group of Town Camp artists have come from. KIERAN FINNANE reports on their persistence through the shutdown and aspirations for the future.
Rhonda Napurrula Sharpe, one of the leading Yarrenyty Arltere artists from the Larapinta Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs, has won the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award, for her work They Come From No Where. The 3D Award is one of five $4000 prizes in theTelstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs). The big prize of $40,000 went to Canberra artist Jenni Kemarre Martiniello for her elegant glass sculpture, Golden Brown Reeds Fish Trap.
Outside, the scent of woodsmoke and roasted 'roo meat; inside, editioned etchings and the colourfully stitched soft sculptures that have become the signature work for Yarrenyty-Arltere Artists from Larapinta Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs. Everywhere, excited children and then after dark, as they settle down, the screening of films that give you a glimpse of everyday life at the camp as you warm up with a steamy cup of tea and hot damper and jam.
It's that time of year again (next Wednesday, June 13, from 4.30pm) when the town camp hosts the annual Art, Film and Music Night at its Learning Centre. There's always an atmosphere of celebration. That's partly in recognition of the centre's achievements over the year, but it's also a response to the opportunity for the town and camp to come together, people getting to know one another – being shown how to cook 'roo tail in the hot ashes, talking about the art, laughing at the same jokes in the films, which perhaps contrary to expectations, are often very humorous.
This isn't the occasion for the art centre to launch new editioned prints – you'll have to wait until Desert Mob for that – but work from older editions will be for sale. Meanwhile, each soft sculpture is unique and it will be an occasion to buy or admire more of their delightful birds and dolls. – KIERAN FINNANE
Pictured, above left: Small circle doll by Contsance Robinja. • Above right: Bird by Dulcie Sharpe. Photos courtesy Yarrenyty-Arltere Artists.