Tarnanthi Festival

‘Fur Stories’ by John Prince Siddon. Photo by Pixel Poetry, courtesy of AGSA, 2021.

Tarnanthi Festival is the Art Gallery of South Australia’s (AGSA) annual celebration of contemporary Indigenous art. This year, close to 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are being featured. The artists range from 13-89 years old, representing desert, coastal and urban communities from all over Australia. This year, artists have pushed boundaries, creating incredible works that mix traditional techniques and stories with contemporary materials to convey important messages about environmental, social and political issues. The festival runs until January 30th 2022, so you still have plenty of time to check out the incredible exhibitions!

The word ‘Tarnanthi' means “to rise up, spring forth or appear '' in Kaurna language. It signifies a new way of thinking and challenging perceptions - all in which underpins the curatorship of the festival. Tarnanthi not only provides a platform for artists to share their stories, it encourages new beginnings by providing them with the opportunity to create new works and extend their practice. The artists are also encouraged to collaborate with each other  to produce artworks that are aimed at challenging the public's perceptions of First Nations art (The Conversation, 2021).

Below, we’ve put together some of the highlights of this year's incredible exhibitions:

John Prince Siddon

Bullock Skull by John Prince Siddon. Courtesy of AGSA, 2021.

Contemporary artist and Walmajarri man John Prince Siddon is exhibiting an array of bold psychedelic paintings, featuring bullock skulls, boab nuts and kangaroo pelts. These artworks deliver commentaries on environmental, social and political issues (Broadsheet, 2021). Siddon is renowned for his unique contemporary paintings, in which he describes as 'jigsaws' as they bring together elements from the landscape, Dreaming stories, kid’s paintings, animals and reference the current issues of the world (AGSA, 2021).

Irrunytju Desert Artists

‘Mutaka’ by artists from Irrunytju. Photo by Saul Seed, courtesy of AGSA, 2021.

For the Tarnanthi Festival a group of desert artists from Irrunytju have created an incredible collaborative work titled Mutaka (motor car). On the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of WA, the artists used parts from vehicles abandoned in the desert to create these gorgeous miniature cars . Through this work artists share their unique stories about country and strong ties to culture, while also sending a message about waste, by turning these salvaged parts into something beautiful (Broadsheet, 2021).

Kaylene Whiskey

‘Yankunytjatjara People’ by Kaylene Whiskey. Courtesy of AGSA, 2021.

Kaylene Whiskey is a Yankunytjatjara artist who paints with Iwantja Arts and Crafts in Indulkana. She is known for her clever contemporary works which weave her favourite pop stars into the Kungkarangkalpa Tjukurpa: the Seven Sisters creation story. Whiskey's exhibit at Tarnanthi includes her original artwork titled 'Yankunytjatjara People' painted onto a SA Tourist attraction sign. The artwork depicts strong women having a big celebration with Western soft drinks and lollies, as well as traditional bush foods such as maku (witchetty grubs), tjala (honey ants) and mingkulpa (bush tobacco) (AGSA, 2021).

Senior Women Artists

‘Ara Karjarraku’ by Katjarra Butler. Photo by Saul Steed, Courtesy of AGSA, 2021.

A number of senior women artists are also featured in the exhibition. Ngaanyatjarra/Pintupi woman Katjarra Butler is exhibiting her collection of 16 stunning canvases titled 'Ara Karjarraku.' The individualistic canvases share her knowledge of the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), which has guided her traditional lifestyle. Another senior artist to be featured is Anangu woman Nyunmiti Burton. Burton's bold painting depicts the Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters: a story about the strength of sisterhood and the leadership that women have to offer (The Conversation, 2021).

This is just a small taste of the artists exhibited at Tarnanthi Festival this year. We highly recommend that you check out each artist and support these rising stars. Overall, Tarnanthi provides a completely new perspective on Indigenous art, along with the stories and messages it can convey.

For more information about Tarnanthi Festival and to check out the full program click here.