Songlines: APY Lands

Songlines: APY Lands

20 December 2021

We're continuing our exploration of the three deserts that feature in the ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’ exhibition. We started with Martu Country and over the next few weeks, we'll travel eastwards to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

In this area (within the remote north west of South Australia), the Seven Sisters are known as the Kungkarangkalpa and their pursuer is known as Wati Nyiru. Their journey starts in Irawa Bora and moves southwards, passing through Walinynga (Cave Hill), a significant Seven Sisters Tjukurpa (Dreaming) site. Here, the Seven Sisters build a shelter, which becomes a cave. Their pursuer follows them into the cave but they manage to escape his intentions.

Through APY Lands, you'll also find out more about how Aboriginal stories are passed from old to young (nintintjaku) and the importance of passing on knowledge of the bush from generation to generation.

Who are a group of women that work together in our culture, that know about their country and the plants and the animals around them and use this knowledge as they travel? The Seven Sisters of course!

Alison Milyika Carroll, 2017

There are three points of call on your exploration of The APY Lands. After following the footprints on our First Floor (through our Media Lab gallery), you'll arrive at the first space. The works on display include ceramics and large woven figures showing how Wati Nyuru (and the Kungkarangkalpa) shape-shift according to the Songlines.

Woven women sculptures in the shape of trees

The APY Lands journey then continues onwards to the Dome on Tavistock Place. Here in high-resolution, transport yourself on a journey to Cave Hill, a significant site, before watching a narrated animation of the Seven Sisters story.

Visitors lying down watching immersive footage in a dome

In St Lukes gallery we follow the story, where Wati Nyuru follows the sisters into the cave and becomes quite angry as he tries to find them. The Wati Nyuru room, which is a striking red, features snake sculptures and spears. In this gallery you can also watch recordings of a Seven Sisters performance alongside other paintings complete your APY Lands journey.

Visitors looking at snakes sculptures on red background

APY Lands facts:

  • The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands occupy 103,000 square kilometres in the North West corner of South Australia.
  • The area is remote and in some places, virtually undisturbed wilderness with few, if any, tracks.
  • Landscapes vary from arid and semi arid grasslands to lands that are very rugged, with sheared and contorted rocks.
  • Home to Mount Woodroffe, the highest point of South Australia at 1435 metres above sea level.
  • The two main language groups here are Pitjantjatjara, whose traditional lands are mainly in the centre and the west of the APY lands and, Yankunytjatjara, whose country is traditionally in the central and eastern areas.
  • Between 2700 to 3000 people of Aboriginal descent live in this area.

This information was taken from Landscape South Australia website and the APY website where you can find lots more information.