Arts / Anangu paint its connection with Country

Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa, [Country and Culture will be protected by spears], from the APY Art Centre Collective, acrylic on linen, painted in Nyapari, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, 2017. 

THE Australian War Memorial today (November 16) unveiled a large painting by artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in South Australia.

The painting, “Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa” [Country and Culture will be protected by spears] is now on permanent display in the memorial’s Orientation gallery.

Chairman of the APY executive board, Mr Frank Young, spoke of the inspiration for the work, which was created by 19 artists over a four-day period, saying: “There is a connection that Anangu have with Country. It is one of the most important responsibilities: looking after Country, protecting Country, and keeping Country safe. The ancestors handed down this responsibility, and it is as important today as it was hundreds of years ago.”

“Since the Boer War Aboriginal soldiers have fought alongside so many non-indigenous soldiers, together with one goal: to protect this land. An ocean of blood has been lost for Australia,” he says.

In late 2016 memorial director Brendan Nelson commissioned the APY Art Centre Collective to create a work created in a Western Desert style depicting the importance of defence of country to Aboriginal Australians.

The painting is hung opposite the Gallipoli landing boat that took men of the 13th Battalion ashore on April 25, 1915.

“Proud Australians are familiar with Gallipoli and its place in our nation’s birth rites. But amongst those who landed were the first Australians,” Dr Nelson says.

“Only four or five generations after the arrival of the First Fleet and all the devastation it would mean for Aboriginal Australia, they denied their Aboriginality to fight and die for the young nation.”

The huge painting features symbols referring to the myriad and complex ways in which rock holes, trees, and the landscape are protectors of the Anangu way of life.

In the orange-and-red-toned painting, the tjukurpa of the large central tree is a story of protection. The tree is a symbol of a wati (male) soldier, and the spirit of the ancestors stay in the trees, protecting Anangu. The kulata (spears) are for use by soldiers, not hunters. The u-shapes indicate a family gathering of hunting and inma (song and dance or ceremony). The text inscribed across the painting, “Wati Tjilpie Tjutaku Angakakanyilpai Manta Munu Tjukurpa”, translates as “the many men and old men hold and protect Country and Culture”.

The artists who painted the work are Alec Baker (b. 1932), Eric Kumanara Mungi Barney (b. 1973), Pepai Jangala Carroll (b. 1950), Taylor Cooper (b. 1940), Witjiti George (b. 1938), Willy Kaika (b. 1938), Brenton Ken (b. 1944), Ray Ken (b. c. 1940), Dickie Marshall (b. 1969), Willy Muntjanti Martin (b. 1950), Peter Mungkuri (b. 1946), Jimmy Pompey (b. 1952), Keith Stevens (b. 1940), Bernard Tjalkuri (b. 1930), Thomas Ilytjari Tjilya (b. 1962), Ginger Wikilyiri (b. 1930), Mick Wikilyiri (b. c. 1940), Mumu Mike Williams (b. 1952), Frank Young (b. 1950).

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