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)

Exploitation in the Aboriginal art world

The wonderful Alison Milyika Carroll from Ernabella Arts

There are about seven communities and several homelands in the huge swathe of land known as the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in the far northwest of South Australia.

In many of these remote Indigenous communities, the arts centre is the cultural and social hub of the community.

I travel to three art centres in the APY Lands to hear about the role that art centres play in remote communities of Ernbella, Amata and Mimili.

Artists and art centre managers also voice their concerns about the closure of remote communities in Western Australia, and about unscrupulous art dealers, or carpetbaggers, who are preying on vulnerable Aboriginal artists.

I travelled to the APY lands courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia, in partnership with the South Australian Tourism Commission.

You can find out more about the Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art here, and listen to this story, that I produced for ABC RN’s Books and Arts program here.