The pujiman, meaning bush or desert born, were the last Indigenous Australians to live entirely nomadically. Today their knowledge of country and way of life is kept alive through the sharing of stories. A new travelling exhibition, simply titled Pujiman, brings together pujiman artists with younger Indigenous Australian artists, ensuring the ongoing sharing of culture.
Based in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the two art centres wanted to record and artistically express Indigenous history and culture. As Amy Mukherjee, gallery coordinator at Martumili Artists, explains, “It started through the idea of sharing culture and providing opportunity for discussion about culture and country, and providing artists with tools for creative expression.”
At the heart of the collaboration is ensuring the passing of knowledge. “The pujiman artists that we built this project around are the last surviving people that lived entirely traditionally, so the knowledge they have of country is informed by thousands of years of that lifestyle,” says Mukherjee. “The younger generations now, who are based mostly in townships and communities, they don’t have access to that same connection to country.”
From here the concept of a two-year collaborative program emerged, including various workshops and a week-long artist camp. “It really generated a lot of energy in the artists’ groups, so when people came back from the workshops and camps there was so much conversation, and these new works are built off that,” says the gallery coordinator.
Spanning painting, animation, film and drawing, the exhibition brings together many Indigenous Australian stories and experiences. “It’s stories about water forces, it’s stories about traversing huge areas of land in order to meet different family groups, and it’s dreaming stories, which explain the formation of ancestral countries,” explains Mukherjee. “All of this is communicated through the pujiman paintings and for younger people to have an opportunity to sit down and to listen to those stories and to learn, it makes them feel empowered enough to start communicating these stories in their own way and their own artistic voice.”
After showing at Martumili Artists and The Goods Shed in Perth, the exhibition will travel throughout Western Australia in 2019.
The Goods Shed