Strong Women Strong Painting Strong Culture
Strong Women Strong Painting Strong Culture is an exhibition of contemporary art made by women living in central Australia. Many of the artists are from what has become known as the Western Desert notably the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north east of South Australia and the Ngaanyatjarra Lands adjacent in Western Australia.
The exhibition is only part of the collection of Deborah Sims and Matt Dickson who, in 2008, first noticed work made by artists from the Western Desert. They devoted themselves to buying from ethical dealers who have established relationships with Aboriginal owned community art centres.
The works in this exhibition are about the present, even when their subject matter is Tjukurpa. This is a religious term glossed as the ‘Dreaming’ in English, a period when features of the land were created by the actions of Ancestors who finally went into the ground or the sky where they remain today. Living people care for the Ancestors through ceremonies and, by performing these, access Ancestral power and energy.
A quarter of this exhibition is drawn from the collection of the UQ Anthropology Museum and includes new acquisitions. Perhaps the most culturally important work here is the three-quarter life size tjanpi / grass sculptural group of the Minyma Kutjara / Two Women. It shows events at a particular place; the women are resisting the man who has followed them. Materializing the figures of Ancestors like this for wider audiences is an innovation of the last few years.