Tarnanthi takes over

More than 1,000 artists join together for AGSA’s 2019 Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.

Words: Camilla Wagstaff

Back for its fourth iteration, Tarnanthi 2019 is thinking big. The Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art – staged at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) as well as almost 30 partner venues – is now considered the largest festival of its kind.

Tarnanthi 2019 will feature more than 1,000 artists from the length and breadth of the continent; hailing from the Tiwi Islands to Broken Hill, from Ceduna to Port Hedland.

The word Tarnanthi (pronounced tar-nan-dee) comes from the language of the Kaurna people – the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains – and translates to come forth or appear. The city-wide festival celebrates the very best in contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, providing an important platform for artists to share their stories, knowledge, traditions and culture.

“Tarnanthi has captured the attention and imagination of people across the country. It is an absolute privilege to bring this exceptional art experience to audiences,” says Tarnanthi’s artistic director, Barkindji artist and curator Nici Cumpston. “The artists are testament to the rich diversity of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and we are eager for these important stories, and this calibre of art, to be shared with our growing audiences.”

A key component of the AGSA exhibition, Gurruṯu, includes work from outstanding artists working through the widley-acclaimed Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala, north-east Arnhem Land. The project explores a knowledge system that connects people and the universe across time. Participating artists include Djambawa Marawili, Wukun Wanambi and Gunybi Ganambarr, who took out last year’s major prize in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs).

Tarnanthi also sees a number of projects from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands come to life. Mimili Maku Arts’ senior artist Ngupulya Pumani presents her most ambitious work to date, a triptych that depicts the Maku Tjukurpa (Witchetty Grub ancestral creation story).

The festival features a dynamic art fair open over the opening weekend. With more than 50 Art Centres participating this year, the fair provides an opportunity for collectors to acquire quality works of art ethically, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going back to the artists and their communities.

The full Tarnanthi 2019 program will be announced in August 2019. For further details visit agsa.sa.gov.au.

Key dates:

Tarnanthi city-wide festival: 18–27 October 2019

Tarnanthi art fair: 18–20 October 2019

Tarnanthi at AGSA: 18 October 2019 – 27 January 2020

Image: Nancy Jackson and Mrs Burke near Warakurna, WA, 2011. Photo: Rhett Hammerton. Courtesy: Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council.

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