The Reviews

"Among the exhibitions I would single out are Kapi Ungkupayi / He gave us Water at the SASA gallery, an exhibition with special magic. It tells a new dreaming story (tjukurpa) of a recent journey made by a group of women and shows their resourcefulness and reliance on the old stories and knowledge, as well as on God, in a frank and disarming manner. Even before you enter the gallery, you see small tjanpi (spinifex) birds in the window announcing the intense animation and energy inside. Then there are tjanpi goannas, the painted side of a car, small portraits of the desert finches who showed where the “holy water” was, and something new - tjanpi frames on the acrylic paintings flanking the storytelling installation. Curiously, the cloud made of strung-together gumnuts painted blue resonated as a positive echo of Yhonnie Scarce’s cloud Thunder Raining Poison of blown glass yams memorialising nuclear testing at Maralinga in the survey show at the Art Gallery of South Australia. " - Stephanie Radok, Artlink Magazine

"Two stories stood out for me in the long weekend of Tarnanthi's opening – 23 venues potentially to visit, more than 350 artists represented. One was intentionally featured; one was shared by an artist who just couldn't leave the meaning of his artwork to be guessed at. Both encompassed contemporary dramas that linked to mythological stories, both ended with a political message, and both required art to achieve their sharing.

At the SASA Gallery of UniSA, 'Kapi Ungkupayi/He Gave Us Water' filled the room. An installation and film encompassed car-body parts, kids painting birdlife, Tjanpi woven animals and paintings by five women elders from Irrunytju (and its new Minyma Kutjara arts centre) who were 'lost' out in the desert for five days with temperatures soaring into the 50s when their Toyota ran out of both water and fuel. The SASA Gallery is run by Mary Knights, a former facilitator at Irrunytju and a reliable retailer of their story – which they have insisted in the catalogue is “an important story, a new tjukurpa (dreaming story) about our culture, our faith and our relationship with our land”.

As the old women sat beneath a tree, they knew their Country and its water sources – but the only one they could reach on foot was dry. Native tobacco was chewed, a ngintaka (perentie) caught and cooked – but they needed water. One old lady (Mrs Woods) was frail and, after receiving warnings of its imminence from encroaching dingoes, has subsequently died. So they simply couldn't walk any distance. Sometimes they sung tjukurpa, and on Sunday they sang hymns.
Did that cause a cloud to appear – for the 'He' of the title is, in fact, their Christian god? Or did the tjukurpa encourage a cloud of desert finches to appear, heralding an unseen water source. The women dug feverishly where they'd settled, and a metre down they reached brackish – holy – water. It was such an epic story, they were actually reluctant to leave when rescued. It certainly was a story to be told when Tarnanthi invited their contribution.
So the women painted and wove, Mrs Woods and Roma Butler contributing significant canvases; local kids added a flight of painted finches to show they'd learnt survival lessons from the story; unusual portraits of the now-legendary participants were created; a film recorded the Country and the new tjukurpa that was created and sung to tell this tale; and Adelaide, at least, has an understanding of “the close and interconnected relationships between our culture and our Country”. For Irrunytju/Wingellina is one of the 192 remote communities in Western Australia deemed 'unsustainable' by its government, and living there on Country a 'lifestyle choice' by our former PM.
The rest of Australia may gain a lesser understanding via the delightful YouTube film of last April's 'Wingellina Protest' against closure of their community." - Jeremy Eccles, Aboriginal Art Directory

wonderful start to ‪@TARNANTHI Kapi Ungkupayi / He gave us water at SASA Gallery ‪#Adelaide ‪#tarnanthi - Julie Lomax, Director Visual Arts at Australia Council for the Arts

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