Koskela is proud to have fostered a new relationship with the Minyma Kutjara Arts Project. Initiated by the people and artists of Irrunytju, a small Aboriginal community nestled approximately 10km from the tristate border of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia. Irrunytju is part of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and is home to over 150 Anangu (people) who speak primarily Pitjantjara language.
The Minyma Kutjara Arts Project has become a centre for creativity, with artists producing dynamic and culturally important pieces that speak to their connection to place and sense of community. The artists explore the intersection between contemporary painting techniques and media with ancient visual language and tjukurpa (dreaming) through their works.
We were lucky enough to interview the Art Centre Manager, Claire Freer, about the origins of the community and culture in Minyma Kutjara Arts. She spoke to the incredible joy and sense of community the artists foster through the Art Centre. Much of this stems from the connection to place as they are creating works on the same soil as their parents and grandparents!
Can you tell us a little about the origin of Minyma Kutjara, and which language group the name comes from?
Minyma Kutjara (Two Sisters) comes from the Pitjantjatjara language, Minyma is the word for woman, Kutjara means two. The Minyma Kutjara tjukurpa (dreamtime story) is an epic song and dance cycle which narrates the journey of two sisters across the land. Starting at around Ceduna in South Australia, the two sisters traveled through Irrunytju (Wingellina Community) then headed north to Kaltukatjara (Docker River).
This is a huge multi-layer women’s business story with many parts not to be spoken about in public. Near Irrunytju, the sisters sat on two hills and made hair belts in preparation for women’s business. They threw their wana (digging sticks) creating a local rock hole called Wana Wani.
What Country does Minyma Kutjara belong to?
Minyma Kutjara travels through various Country, here in Irrunytju it is called the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.
Minyma Kutjara Arts creates such a diverse range of work, from painting to jewellery, do you think that there’s a common theme across the works which tie them together?
Minyma Kutjara Arts is the youngest and oldest arts centre in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, previously known as Irrunytju Arts the first art centre in Ngaanyatjarra Lands, the centre had been closed for many years. Following years of advocating to get funding Irrunytju Community was awarded a PM&C grant in 2019 for the tin shed to be refurbished and more recently support from Lottery West and IVAIS, Minyma Kutjara Arts is now in full-time operation.
The artists are incredibly passionate about their art practice and to be back creating artworks in the space where their parents and grandparents created important paintings.
The artists are very connected to their Country and everything that it offers in materials, stories, and inspiration. The artists practice shifts between painting, jewelry, sculpture, punu (wood) carving, tjanpi (grass) weaving, and making bush medicine depending on their skills and interests.
The artists hold many, many stories and pride themselves on their individual practice, there is no one common theme. The artists are incredibly hard-working and the art centre is a place of joy and creativity, a really happy place to spend each day with each other creating works they have a personal connection to.
The artists behind the paintings
Alison Watson is a senior artist from the Minyma Kutjara Arts Project. She was born in an area of high significance to the Minyma Kutjara (two sisters) tjukurpa (story), in the bush at Munar near Docker River, in the Peterman Rangers of Western Australia. As a young girl, Alison would watch her two nans Nora Brown and Anmanari brown painting the Minyma Kutjara story, now she paints in their place, expressing the vibrance of her culture and connection to place.
Eva Baker & Norma Bryant
Eva Baker and her older sister, Norma Bryant are both senior artists from the Minyma Kutjara Arts Project. Eva was born in Amata, South Australia, and Norma in Ernabella, South Australia, but both belong to the Pitjantatjara language and cultural group. Norma is both a teacher through her work at the Wingellina Community School, as well as through her sharing of knowledge to her younger sister, Eva, around painting their recollections of the Two Sisters Story.
“My Aunty, Mrs. Cooper told me these stories. She was a great painter too. I have a lot of stories in my head that my Aunty gave me of Minyma Kutjara. I have to pass them on to my two sisters, my nieces, my daughter, and my grandchildren. It is very important to me that they know these stories.” – Norma Bryant
Rene is a senior artist for Minyma Kutjara Arts Project, her paintings draw on her knowledge of country and the location of important rock holes around her place of birth. She was born in Warlu, a rock hole west of Irrunytju, near Papulankutja (Blackstone), and like her fellow painters, belongs to the Pitjantjatjarra language and cultural group. As a young child, Rene lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the desert. She walked with her family to Warburton Mission where they camped before continuing to Areyonga, Papulankutja, then to Irrunytju. It was here that she started a family, starting through marriage and progressing to children and grandchildren! Rene’s paintings use layers of vibrant colours intensified by precise uniform dotting. Rene is happy practicing traditional cultural activities such as hunting and gathering bush foods, singing and dancing, and reflecting this vibrant array of cultural activities through her art.