Australia’s oldest continuously operating Indigenous art centre, Ernabella Arts, turns 70 this year and has revisited an earlier collaboration.

1 June 2018

Funded through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) program, Ernabella Arts provides opportunities for artists to develop innovative and distinctive work. The centre is based in the Pukatja Community in the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, in far north-west South Australia.

Ernabella Arts started in 1948 with a craft room where hand-loomed fibre fabrics and knotted rugs were produced. Today the artists also create paintings, punu (wood carvings), tjanpi (woven and sculptured wild grass) and ceramics. Each piece of work connects to Tjukurpa, sacred stories of country and law.

Ernabella Arts has a longstanding cultural and creative connection with the Sturt Craft Centre in Mittagong, New South Wales. This began in 1971 when five artists from Ernabella participated in a residency to enhance their weaving and learn ceramics. The artists have continued to share their skills in an enduring partnership between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous centres.

As part of Ernabella’s 70th anniversary celebrations, the IVAIS program funded In These Hands: Mara Nyangangka, an exhibition of Ernabella works at the Sturt Gallery. The exhibition provided an invaluable opportunity to bring the contemporary works of Ernabella artists to new audiences, and for artists to reconnect with Sturt artisans and share their stories and connection to county, told in both English and Pitjantjatjara at the exhibition’s launch.

In These Hands: Mara Nyangangka is touring nationally including at Craft Act, Canberra (until
30 June 2018), the JamFactory Craft and Design, Adelaide and the Australian Design Centre, Sydney later in 2018.

The IVAIS program funds around 80 Indigenous art centres which are part of Australia’s internationally renowned Indigenous visual arts movement. This funding provides professional opportunities for over 7,000 artists and around 300 arts workers, most living in very remote Indigenous communities.

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