Spinifex Artists tell their stories


Paintings by Spinifex Artists are embedded with records of constellations, creation stories, landscape, fauna, and major songlines of the Great Victoria Desert. Now based in Tjuntjuntjara community in Western Australia, near the South Australian border, the Spinifex People (known locally as Anangu) were dispossessed and dispersed when atomic tests were undertaken on their Country at Maralinga in the 1950s. Title to their homelands was formally returned in 2001, and painting has formed an important part of the Spinifex Peoples’ account of connection to Country.

These stories are captured in On Our Country, particularly through the painting Kungkarangkalpa by senior Spinifex artist Ngalpingka Simms. It’s a pulsing network of connected lines, circles and dots in bright red, yellow, orange, purple and blue, hovering on a black background. This vibrant web tells the Seven Sisters Creation story, which involves a long, arduous journey undertaken by a group of young women in flight from a pursuing male. Also included in On Our Country is an epic Women’s Collaborative painting, which is another collective telling of this story of Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters).

Myrtle Pennington (Pitjantjatjara), Kanpala, acrylic on linen, 137 x 90 cm.

In the work of Myrtle Pennington, also a senior artist, landscape is imbued with layers of spirituality, history and ceremony. Her painting Kanpala has a dense background of dappled reds and oranges. Patches and thick lines of pale blue and purple expand out from the centre, as if to form an aerial map of sandhills, salt lakes and rocky escarpments.

On Our Country will be the tenth exhibition of paintings by Spinifex Artists, highlighting how the artists have been reconnecting with waterholes and Dreaming sites that their families were forced to leave over half a century ago. Painting is one of many ways that their stories are retold and recorded.

On Our Country
Spinifex Artists

Japingka Gallery
6 November–21 December

Preview Words by Rebecca Gallo