Page 3800 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015

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Museum and Gallery. Punuku Tjukurpa is an exhibition of works from the Maruku Arts archive at Mutitjulu near Uluru in the Northern Territory, featuring works created by three generations of Anangu people from the central and western deserts. The works feature designs burnt onto carved wooden forms, such as wooden bowls, spear throwers, shields, spears and beautiful carvings of desert birds and animals.

Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures is one of the four key principles of the ACT government’s art policy. In this spirit, the exhibition is providing opportunities for our region’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to experience and learn about some of the wonderful works of art being produced in Australia today.

Some of the artists, Rene Kulitja, Janet Inyika and Mary Pan, travelled all the way from the Pitjantjatjara lands to attend. I thank them for their great efforts in creating these works, and for making it to Canberra to attend the launch. I also thank Ms Louise Partos, executive director of Artback NT, whose organisation has managed this wonderful touring exhibition of national significance, and Mr Stephen Fox, the curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition is an invitation for all in the ACT to share in the culture, knowledge and law of Anangu. The exhibition’s title, Punuku Tjukurpa, translated into Australian English, can be broken down as follows. “Punu” means anything made of wood, especially artefacts or implements. In addition, it means any living, growing tree or bush, a piece of wood or a stick. “Ku” is a word ending that indicates the owner or rightful user of something, the custodian or caretaker, such as objects or even places. And “Tjukurpa” indicates story, dreaming or law which gives meaning and significance to the lives of individuals or persons engaging in traditional cultural pursuits. The title of the exhibition, Punuku Tjukurpa, therefore describes the story and the law behind these works. Many of the objects in Punuku Tjukurpa have been provided with the walka technique, the application of marks or patterns using a burning hot wire.

It is an inspiring exhibition that has been organised and curated with real dedication. It brings the works of artists who live in locations remote from our metropolitan city into our lives. In doing so, it enhances our appreciation for these artists’ cultural traditions. Punuku Tjukurpa provides a real insight into the passing down of skills and stories through many generations.

I would like to thank the artists for their wonderful work. I will read a quotation from one of them, Niningka Lewis:

It is good that our carvings should go out to the world for all to see. This is a good thing. People can see and understand how things are made and that we have a lot of memories [in our collection].

The Punuku Tjukurpa exhibition is a great showcase of Pitjantjatjara and Indigenous culture. I am proud of the work of both the artists and the ACT government, which contributed to making this exhibition possible. It is open until Sunday, 29 November in CMAG, just across from the Assembly, across Civic Square.

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