‘I am painting a special place called Makiri, it’s my father’s homeland. We used to go there a lot when I was a little one. There is a big rock hole there and lots of tjala (honeyants),’ explains APY artist Michelle Lewis. She highlights ‘when I am painting that place, I think about that place and what it means to my family and culture’.
Michelle works from the Ernabella Centre in Pukatja Community at the eastern end of the Musgrave Ranges, in the far north west of South Australia. Ernabella is one of nine Art Centres represented by the Indigenous owned and operated APY Art Centre Collective’s new Sydney gallery, where the works of young and emerging Indigenous artists have been shown since its inception in March this year.
It’s the Elders in the APY Lands who have led the charge in fostering Art Centres as places to celebrate culture and community, creating opportunities for meaningful employment. ‘The Elders I work for are ambitious… and they’ve gained significant momentum’, APY Gallery director Sky O’Meara tells me, ‘their entire focus is on creating a better future for the younger generations’. As the only source of non-government income in APY communities, Art Centres ‘are the vehicle the Elders use to impact and overcome to disadvantages they face’. Skye encourages all art lovers interested in buying their first Aboriginal artwork to ask questions about where the work has come from, ‘The answer you are looking for is that it was made at an Indigenous owned and governed Art Centre’.
Nganampa walytjarara walytjararaku Christmas pukulpa, Our Family Christmas features 28 painters from seven Art Centres, as well as 11 of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, and eight Maraku Artists working with Punu (wooden artefacts).
It’s not even been a full year since APY Gallery opened its doors, and already their artists have made big waves. In May, Iwantja Arts member Kaylene Whisky took out the prestigious Sulman Prize with her painting, ‘Kaylene TV’, depicting Dolly Parton and Cher singing together. Another Inwantja Arts artist Vincent Namatjira received a high commendation for his self-portrait in the Archibald Prize. Many APY ACC landscape masterpieces were also included in the Wynne Prize.
Though these accolades are hugely significant, it’s been the Gallery’s momentum and the confidence fostered in APY Arts Centre communities that has truly defined its success.
Nganampa walytjarara walytjararaku Christmas pukulpa, Our Family Christmas
December 7th –19th
Opening Friday, December 7th, 6pm-8pm
APY Art Centre Collective Gallery
45 Burton Street
Artists represented in this group show come from Iwantja Arts at Indulkana Community, Mimili Maku Arts in Mimili Community, Kaltjiti Arts in Fregon Community, Ernabella Arts in Pukatja Community, Tjala Arts in Amata Community, Tjungu Palya in Nyapori, Community, Ninuku Arts in Kalka Community. These Art Centres are joined by Maruku Arts from Uluru, Tjanpi Desert Weavers based in Alice Springs, and Ara Iritja Aboriginal Corporation.