Tarnanthi 2019

Now in its fourth year, South Australia’s annual celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art brings together the work of over 1000 First Nations artists from across the continent. ‘Tarnanthi’ –­ a word from the Kaurna people, the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains – means to come forth or appear, like the sun and the first emergence of light; an apt metaphor for the way the festival sheds light on stories, culture and art practice.

At its heart, Tarnanthi is a series of exhibitions, artists talks, performances and events, showcasing and celebrating the ingenuity of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. This year’s iteration unites close to fifty art centres from across the country, including the return of Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

Led by Barkindji artist and curator Nici Cumpston, Tarnanthi 2019 encompasses a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), a city-wide festival across nearly thirty venues and an Art Fair. The exhibition at AGSA includes works of art by artists ranging from fifteen to eighty-one years of age, and spanning a range of mediums across painting, photography, printmaking, carving, sculpture, moving image, works on paper and textiles.

In her introduction, Cumpston writes, ‘The Kaurna people, the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains, have gathered for millennia at the site we now call Adelaide to exchange knowledge, materials and information. It is not by chance, then, that this city is today defined by its festivals and is a gathering place for people from all over the country and across the globe. Tarnanthi happens here, gathering people, ideas and cultures to Kaurna Tarndanyangga, the place of the red kangaroo, situated on the banks of Karrawirra Pari, the red gum forest river. Kaurna people call such a conference of ideas panpa-panpalya. Predicated on deep listening, panpa-panpalya is where exchange and education happens, not to assimilate one culture into another but, in the words of Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien, ‘to gain a deeper understanding about life from each other because every nation has their concepts and ways of thinking’ … Through the remarkable creativity and enormous goodwill of all of the artists, Tarnanthi is a place of ideas and discussion, a gathering place for people to come together to encounter other viewpoints and to make connections. It is an opportunity for new and old relationships to develop and it is a chance to look, listen and hear one another.’

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport continues this sentiment, describing Tarnanthi as a fertile mode of exchange: ‘Art is a language that inhabits the space existing across and among cultures. It bridges our differences and transcends barriers. Tarnanthi gives voice to the poetry, power and importance of that language’.

At AGSA, audiences can experience the work of Yolŋu artists working out of Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala, north-east Arnhem Land, including work by Djambawa Marawili and Gunybi Ganambarr. There will be a research-based display demonstrating the role of traditional Aboriginal agriculture in shaping the Australian landscape, and a three-panelled painting depicting the Maku Tjukurpa (Witchetty Grub ancestral creation story) and ceremony sites near Mimili, as well as talks, tours, performances, workshops, creative activities and student programs. The Fair also provides visitors with the opportunity to acquire works of art, with all proceeds going to the artists and art centres.

In 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, Tarnanthi highlights how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is a language that unites us through creativity and wonder.

Tarnanthi 2019
18 October 2019 – 27 January 2020
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

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