The Art Gallery of South Australia today unveiled details of the 2021 festival, which will open on October 14 with a livestreamed performance by electronic duo Electric Fields with Antara inma singers and First Nations Dance Collective – Tjarutja.

Continuing until January 30, 2022, Tarnanthi will feature work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia – including painting, photography, weaving, sculpture, film, installations and multi-media works – with more than 30 exhibitions at venues in Adelaide and throughout regional South Australia.

The Tarnanthi Art Fair, a popular annual event in which all proceeds go to artists and their community-run art centres, will this year be presented as an online-only event, with dates to be confirmed. Although the Art Gallery previously indicated the 2021 fair would be in a new venue at Torrens Parade Ground, it has decided to move it online to extend its reach and ensure it can proceed regardless of what restrictions may be in place.

“Storytelling lies at the heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’ work, and Tarnanthi provides us with an occasion to listen,” Tarnanthi artistic director Nici Cumpston says of the festival.

“If we give them our fullest attention, they can transport us across time and country, into different ways of seeing and understanding.”

Eva Anyupa Baker, Pitjantjatjara people, Bush trips to Mitutu Homeland, 2020, Irrunytju (Wingellina), WA, synthetic polymer paint on found object, 30.0 x 70.0 x 26.0cm. © Eva Anyupa Baker/Minyma Kutjara Arts Project. Photo: John Montesi

The AGSA will feature 27 projects for Tarnanthi, including a display titled Mutaka (motor car), in which desert artists from Irrunytju (near the SA/WA border) share their stories on salvaged and painted car parts.

It will also show painting and moving image works by Yankunytjatjara artist Kaylene Whiskey, whose practice merges pop culture and traditional knowledge, and Walmajarri artist John Prince Siddon, who has created a suite of “psychedelic” paintings on canvas, bullock skulls and kangaroo pelts which comment on environmental, social and political issues.

Other highlights at the AGSA will include a bamboo installation by multi-disciplinary artist Gail Mabo, which recalibrates traditional navigational charts used by Torres Strait Islander people and pays homage to her famous late father, land rights activist Eddie Koiki Mabo, and a large triptych painting by 2021 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) winner Timo Hogan of his homeland, Lake Baker, in the Great Victoria Desert.

Gail Mabo, Piadram clan, Torres Strait Islands, Tagai, 2020, bamboo, cotton, shellac, plastic, 287.0 x 290.0 x 15.0cm. Purchased with funds provided by Vicki Olsson 2020, AGNSW.  © Gail Mabo. Photo: Felicity Jenkins

APY Gallery in Light Square will host Ngura Pulka – Epic Country, an augmented-reality experience featuring artist Matjangka Norris that will transport visitors to the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, while Country Arts is presenting an immersive theatrical presentation by Jacob Boehme, Wild Dog, that reveals the storyline of the dingo.

Senior Kaurna man Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien describes Tarnanthi Festival as “our opportunity to experience the wonders of culture in many spaces and places”.

“And it is through our observing eyes, our listening and inquiring ears, and our doing bodies, we will emerge as a part of the Tarnanthi Festival as one, and to rise together.’

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.