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600 suspended spears a highlight of 2017 Tarnanthi

Arts & Culture

A major new work from APY Lands artists featuring more than 600 spears suspended from the ceiling in the shape of an atomic cloud will be a highlight of this year's Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.

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Festival artistic director Nici Cumpston today announced some of the key features of the 2017 event, which will showcase work by more than 1000 artists from across Australia at exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia and 20-plus other venues from October 13-22.

Cumpston said there would be a particular focus on the seven art centres of the South Australian Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

‘These artists are embodying the essence of breaking new ground with their art making.

“Through years of experience and presenting their work across the country, they are now driving their own practise to ambitious new levels.”

A new installation at this year’s Tarnanthi will see 600 spears made by men from the seven art centres suspended from the ceiling of the AGSA above a group of piti (water carriers), made by women. Part of the Kulata Tjuta (Many Spears) project – which seeks to pass on traditional knowledge and skills – it depicts the impact of atomic bomb testing in Anangu Lands at Maralinga, with the spears representing the atomic cloud and the piti representing poisoned water.

An earlier iteration of the work exploring different themes and featuring 160 artists from Tjala Arts at Amata was presented at the 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.

Other 2017 Tarnanthi works from the APY Lands will include two huge collaborative men’s and women’s paintings created by 45 artists from the seven different arts centres, which will be displayed alongside photographs by Robert Fielding showing the artists at work, and paintings on repurposed canvas mailbags by Pitjantjatjara artist Mumu Mike Williams which include handwritten statements about cultural heritage and custodianship.

Kungkarangkalpa – Seven sisters, by the APY Women’s Collaborative. © the artists, courtesy of Ernabella Arts, Iwantja Arts, Kaltjiti Arts, Mimili Maku Arts, Tjala Arts, Tjungu Palya and Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre. Photo: Silversalt Photography

The festival will also feature works from interstate artists, including embroidered soft-sculpture self-portraits of artists from Yarrenyty Arltere, in Alice Springs, and an exhibition at the SA Museum by the Ngaanyatjarra people of the Western Desert which explores the concept of Ngurra (home).

There will be artists’ talks, performances and events throughout Tarnanthi, with an art fair on the weekend of October 13-15 where members of the public can buy works direct from the artists.

Cumpston said the festival, first presented in 2015, gives artists the opportunity to create significant new work and extend their practice.

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