28 December 2021
As we continue our journey across the deserts of Australia in connection with the 'Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters' exhibition (on display until 27 February 2022), we're exploring more of the key works that are on show. In this post we look at a group of beautiful ceramic containers.
This collection of seven works can be seen in the gallery where you first encounter the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in Southern Australia.
Made from glazed stoneware with an underglaze, they were created in 2016 by members of Ernabella Arts, Australia's oldest continuously running Indigenous art centre. Ernabella, now known as Pukatja, is located just over 200 miles south west of Alice Springs.
Like the main ambition for the Songlines exhibition itself, the works were created because the senior women were concerned about a loss of knowledge amongst the younger members of their community. Many of them didn’t know the names of important plants and animals so the pots represent water and five different foods: Bush Tomato, Fig, Quandong (Native Peach), Witchetty Grub and Honey Ant. The seventh pot is decorated with ceremonial designs.
A name is so much more than a name, it is like the key to knowledge.
Alison Milyika Carroll
Kungkarrangkalpa (Seven Sisters) 2014 by Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell, Papulankutja Artists © the artist/Copyright Agency 2020 Image: National Museum of Australia
At Ernabella Arts, young and old work side by side. This passing on of knowledge from one generation to the next is known as nintintjaku.
The younger women collected plant specimens, took photos and made drawings to help the senior women develop the inspiration, patterns and details for the pots.
Each pot helps tell a story about how the Seven Sisters used the desert environment and their knowledge of culture and ceremony (known as inma) to escape Wati Nyiru, their dangerous pursuer.
The pots sit on a large round plinth with a waterhole in the centre. An eighth pot to represent Wati Nyiru is displayed on a separate plinth at a distance.
With thanks to the National Museum of Australia and the curators of 'Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters'.
Header image: Kungkarrangkalpa (Seven Sisters) 2014 by Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell, Papulankutja Artists © the artist/Copyright Agency 2020 Image: National Museum of Australia