Kungka Kuṉpu celebrates the strength of the Anangu women

“Us young women here in Indulkana love to dance and have fun and make each other laugh,” says Kaylene Whiskey. “We’re proud to live on our land and hold on to our culture and our language.”

The beloved Pitjantjatjara artist from Indulkana, a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia, is speaking of the cross-generational film she made with fellow Anangu artists, Kungka Kuṉpu. It means ‘strong women’, and is showing in an exhibition of the same name that has travelled from the Art Gallery of South Australia to Geelong Gallery in Victoria.

Kungka Kuṉpu (Strong Women) is vast in scale, with major contemporary works from over 60 Anangu women artists, including Angkuna Baker, Kunmanara (Wawiriya) Burton, Nyunmiti Burton, Mrs Kaika Burton, Sylvia Ken, Kunmanara (Militjari) Pumani, Rhoda Tjitayi, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Yaritji Tingila Young, and of course Kaylene Whiskey.

The works span painting, weaving, sculptural installation, and the moving image. The women exhibiting tell their stories and those of their ancestors, with the story of the Seven Sisters featuring prominently throughout.

“The Seven Sisters story has always been important for Anangu women and it is more important today than ever before,” says artist Nyunmiti Burton. “This is the power of women leaders. We can make all the women coming behind us fly.”

View, in pictures, the stories of these Kungka Kuṉpu.

Tjanpi artists Mrs Kaika Burton, Yaritji Tingila Young, Paniny Mick, Iluwanti Ken and Naomi Kantjuriny with their birds from Paarpakani (Take flight) in 2011; image courtesy the artists and Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council, Alice Springs, photo: Jo Foster.

Angkuna Baker; image courtesy the artist and Iwantja Arts; photo: Meg Hansen.

Nyunmiti Burton; image courtesy the artist and APY Art Centre Collective; photo: heyandy.

Ken Family Collaborative, Tjungkara Ken, Sandra Ken, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin, Yaritji Tingila Young and Paniny Mick, with their work Kangkura-KangkuraKu Tjukurpa – A Sister’s Story, 2017, image courtesy Ken Family Collaborative/ and Tjala Arts.

Sylvia Ken, image courtesy the artist and Tjala Arts; photo: heyandy.

Yaritji Tingila Young with Tjala Tjukurpa – Honey ant story, 2021, Amata, South Australia, image courtesy the artist and Tjala Arts; photo: Luke Byrne.

Kunmanara (Wawiriya) Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born Pipalyatjara, South Australia c 1925, died Amata, South Australia 2021, Ngayuku ngura – My country, 2012, Amata, South Australia, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 195.0 x 195.0, Gift of Lisa Slade and Nici Cumpston 2013, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, © estate of Kunmanara (Wawiriya) Burton/Tjala Arts.

Kaylene Whiskey, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Northern Territory 1976, Seven Sistas Sign, 2021, Indulkana, South Australia, water-based enamel paint on metal, 75.0 x 270.0 cm; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2022, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, © Kaylene Whiskey/Iwantja Arts.