Why is this work a self-portrait?

Tjungkara Ken, Kungkarankalpa tjukurpa, Seven Sisters Dreaming, a self-portrait, acrylic on linen, 240 x 200 cm (© the artist Photo: Mim Stirling, AGNSW)

This shimmering work by Indigenous artist Tjungkara Ken is a finalist in this year’s Archibald Portrait Prize.

It’s only the second abstract work by an Indigenous artist to be shortlisted for the prestigious prize.

So what makes it a self-portrait?

Ken, who is from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia, explains that this work is a representation of her tjukurpa, or dreaming, which in Anangu culture is akin to a self-portrait.

She speaks to me, alongside fellow artist, and one of the directors of Tjala Arts, Nyumiti Burton. I produced this story for ABC RN’s Books and Arts, and you can listen to it here.

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Why is the art from the APY lands so good?

Award-winning artist Barbara Moore in front of one of her paintings at Tjala Arts, in Amata (Georgia Moodie)

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands of South Australia are home to some of the powerhouses of Australian contemporary art.

This year alone, artists from the APY lands earnt 25 nominations for the most prestigious Indigenous art awards in the country, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

Earlier this year, 14 artists from the APY lands were announced as finalists in this year’s Wynne Prize for the best Australian landscape painting, and two others were named as finalists of this year’s Archibald portrait prize.

Work from these tiny art centres will also feature in Tarnanthi, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art.

I travelled to several of these remote communities to meet with award-winning artists Barbara Moore, Mumu Mike Williams and Nici Cumpston, the Artistic Director of Tarnanthi.

I travelled courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia, and I produced this story for Books and Arts on ABC RN, and you can listen to it here.

Anangu artist Mumu Mike Williams standing in front of his recent work, painted onto old Australian Post mailbags (Georgia Moodie)

Circus Oz’s BLAKflip

Blakflip

Shiralee Hood at Circus Oz (Rob Blackburn)

Last month, ten Indigenous performers from across Australia came together for three weeks for a serious masterclass in tumbling, acrobatics and clowning.

They are part of Circus Oz’s BLAKflip program for Indigenous performers, which aims to bring more emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists into the circus arts.

For Books and Arts, I went along to Circus Oz’s Melbourne headquarters to speak to three performers busy learning the ropes and you can listen to the story here.

Sally Morgan’s new verse novel

Sally Morgan's Sister Heart

Sally Morgan’s Sister Heart

Author Sally Morgan is best known for her acclaimed memoir, My Place, about researching her family history and discovering her Aboriginal identity.

She has just written a powerful verse novel for children called Sister Heart.

Inspired by the story of her great grandmother, it tells the story of Annie, an Aboriginal girl from Western Australia who is taken from her family and her country.

I spoke to Sally Morgan for ABC RN’s Books and Arts program, and you can hear the interview here.

Jukuja Dolly Snell wins the National Aboriginal Art Award

Jukuja Dolly Snell in front of her winning painting, Kurtal (Supplied)

Jukuja Dolly Snell in front of her winning painting, Kurtal (Supplied)

Jukuja Dolly Snell, an artist from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, has won Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize, the 2015 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

She won the $50,000 prize for her bold, vibrant painting Kurtal.

Kurtal is the name of a waterhole, where Jukuja was born in 1933, and it’s also the name of an important snake spirit.

With her granddaughter, and great granddaughter translating, Jukuja speaks to me her powerful rendition of her husband’s traditional land and stories from the Great Sandy Desert. You can listen to the interview here.

Darwin Festival: Prison Songs

Ernie Dingo and Shellie Morris in Prison Songs

Ernie Dingo and Shellie Morris in Prison Songs

Prison Songs, a stage show that offers a rare glimpse into Darwin’s Berrimah prison, opens tonight at the Darwin Festival.

It’s an adaptation of an SBS musical documentary that features interviews with an eclectic mix of Berrimah’s inmates, and features songs written by Darwin based singer/songwriter Shellie Morris and composer and playwright Casey Bennetto.

Before it was decommissioned, Berrimah Prison was the largest prison in the Northern Territory, home to more than 800 men and women, most of them Indigenous.

The stage show stars Ernie Dingo, Shellie Morris and Jada Alberts, as well as Renato, one of the inmates who was part of the Prison Songs documentary and has since been released.

Hear the story I produced for ABC RN’s Books and Arts here.

Art brings together African and Aboriginal community

Ez Eldin Deng, Ngardarb Riches and Liss Gabb on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, with the Atherton Gardens Estate in the background (Georgia Moodie, ABC)

Ez Eldin Deng, Ngardarb Riches and Liss Gabb on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, with the Atherton Gardens Estate in the background (Georgia Moodie, ABC)

Fitzroy, in Melbourne’s inner north, has a long and rich Aboriginal history.

Now, the suburb is also home to many South Sudanese people, who live at the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate.

For this year’s Gertrude Street Projection Festival, members of the South Sudanese and Aboriginal communities have teamed up to create a video work, with the help of the arts organisation, cohealth Arts Generator.

South Sudanese filmmaker and artist Ez Eldin Deng, Bardi Jawi artist Ngardarb Francine Riches and creative producer at cohealth Arts Generator Liss Gabb speak to me about the project, and you can hear the interview for RN’s Books and Arts here.