Seven Sisters Dreaming

 Justinna Napaljarri Sims ‘Yanjirlpirri or Napaljarri-Warnu Jukurrpa (Star or Seven Sisters Dreaming)

151x62cm acrylic on canvas €1854 (incl tax) click here for more information

 

An ancient story

The constellation of the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, has been a potent symbol for artists, writers and storytellers for thousands of years.

The star cluster is mentioned in the Bible and the Koran and was important in Greek, Celtic and Norse mythology.  The seven brightest stars of the Pleiades have been the focus for stories, myths and rituals for many First Peoples and is an important dreaming story for Aboriginal peoples across Australia.  ‘Dreaming’ is an entirely inadequate term for incredibly complex systems of recording, holding and passing on cultural knowledge and laws encompassing every aspect of life from creation, ethics, morality, kinship, medicine, food, seasons and water, all mapped onto landscape, watercourses and sky. The complex kinship system and how it relates to animals, birds, landscape and skies determines which individuals and families are entitled to tell which particular Dreamings.

Counterweave currently has an example of the Seven Sisters Dreaming, by Warlukurlangu artist Justinna Napaljarri Sims.  Warlukurlangu artists depict the Pleaides as the Napaljarri -Warnu Jukurrpa or Seven Sisters Dreaming.

The sisters are seven women of the Napaljarri skin group and are often depicted in paintings of this Jukurrpa carrying the Jampijinpa man ‘wardilyka’ (the bush turkey) who is in love with the Napaljarri -warnu and who represents the Orion’s Belt cluster of stars.  Jukurra-jukurra, the morning star, is a Jakamarra man who is also in love with the seven  sisters and is often shown chasing them across the night sky.

In a final attempt to escape  the women turned themselves into fire and ascended to the heavens to become stars.

The custodians of the Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa are Japaljarri/Jungarrayi men and Napaljarri/Nungarrayi women. Some parts of the Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa are closely associated with men’s sacred ceremonies of a very secretive nature. Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming) tells of the journey of Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men who travelled west to Lake Mackay on the Western Australian border. Along the way, they performed ‘ kurdiji’ (initiation ceremonies) for young men. Women also danced for the ‘kurdiji’.

The site depicted in this canvas is Yanjirlypiri (star) where there is a low hill and a water soakage.

The importance of this place cannot be overemphasized as young boys are brought hundreds of kilometres to be initiated, from as far as Pitjanjatjara country to the south and Lajamanu to the north. In contemporary Warlpiri paintings traditional iconography is used to represent the Jukurrpa, associated sites and other elements. Often depicted in paintings for this Jukurrpa is the female star Yantarlarang (Venus – the Evening Star) who chases the seven Napaljarri sisters for having stolen the night from her.

The artist

Justinna Napaljarri Sims was born in 1977 in the Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community 290 km north-west from Alice Springs and the location of the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation. She went to school at Yirrara college in Alice Springs, but returned to the community in 1999 where she has lived permanently ever since. She is married to Gordon Jangala Robertson and has two daughters, Vicky and Chantal. Apart from being a mother and painter, Justinna also works part time in a local store in Yuendumu.

Justinna is the grand-daughter of Paddy Japaljarri Sims (dec), one of the founding artists of Warlukurlangu. She has been painting with Warlukurlangu since 1999, however it wasn’t until 2010 that she has had time to paint consistently. She paints many of her grandfather’s Jukurrpa stories, Dreamings, which include Ngarlkirdi Jukurrpa (Witchetty Grub Dreaming) and Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming), Dreamings which relate directly to her land, its features and animals.

Further reading

Deepening Histories of Place, edited by Mary Anne Jebb and Ann McGrath, Australian National Universality Press 2015 downloadable here http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/aboriginal-history-monographs/long-history-deep-time

The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture general editors Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neal, Cultural Editor Robyne Bancroft OUP 2008

Friday Essay: land, kinship and ownership of ‘Dreamings’ March 17, 2016, Christine Nicholls, Senior Lecturer in Australian Studies, Flinders University, https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-land-kinship-and-ownership-of-dreamings-39637

 

strong in culture

Counterweave Arts is more than selling Aboriginal art – we believe sharing aspects of Aboriginal culture is a fundamental part of being an ethical fair trade business. Aboriginal artists choose to share stories and knowledge through their paintings: these artworks are not just beautiful objects, they share some of the intricate cosmology, social structures, botany, medicine and spirituality that runs through every aspect of life. They are full of significance and meaning.

Agnes Nampijinpa Brown Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) – Puyurru

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived in what we now call Australia for at least 60,000 years. Aboriginal culture is the longest continuing culture in the world and it continues to live and grow,  handed down through the generations through ceremony, lore, song, art and language. For Aboriginal people culture and connection to country are fundamental to identity: being strong in culture means knowing who you are, where you fit, where you belong. And language is key to this. More than 250 Indigenous Australian language groups were spoken at the time of colonisation in the late 18th-century. Around 120 are still spoken today but there is a great deal of work happening around the country to revive, preserve, and strengthen language. More information is available at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies https://aiatsis.gov.au/

Currently Counterweave stocks artworks from Artists of Ampilatwatja and Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation. These are communities in the very centre of Australia – about 300 kilometres east (Ampilatwatja) and west (Warlukurlangu) of Alice Springs and for many of the artists English may be their fourth or fifth language.

Margaret Kemarre Ross of Artists of Ampilatwatja

Maria Nampijinpa Brown of Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation

In other parts of Australia English is the dominant language and Aboriginal languages have disappeared or are spoken by very few people. This is especially true in the south east of Australia where colonisation almost wiped out the local Aboriginal peoples, in spite of a strong resistance. Gunai/Kurnai country is not far from our home city of Melbourne: local elders have been working hard to revive and share the Gunai/Kurnai language and in doing so, preserve and hand on the unique Gunai/Kurnai culture.

‘Language isn’t just about speaking, it’s your whole way of life,’ explained Lynnette Solomon-Dent. ‘It tells you what’s in the country, what the stories are, what your obligations are to each other.’ Unpack a single word and you can start to understand a system of kin relations and cultural obligations that are still alive and well. The word for ‘mother’ doubles as the word used for Lynnette’s sisters. If anything happened to Lynnette, her sisters would automatically become mothers to her children. It’s all there in the language.

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  • note that we use the term “Aboriginal people” to include Torres Strait Islander people. This is not meant disrespectfully but to avoid repetition. For brevity and readability we use the term, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” at the beginning of a written piece, and “Aboriginal people” thereafter.

Australian art in Rome in August and autumn classes

art | craft | anima - Counterweave - Melbourne + Rome. Australian, Aboriginal & Asia-Pacific contemporary arts, crafts & textiles. Reiki & Tarot.

Felicity Griffin Clark – mixed media indigo concertina art book

Australian art specialists in Rome, Counterweave Arts Gallery & Workshop is open throughout the summer.

August in Rome is traditionally when businesses close for the summer holiday. It’s true Rome is hot, people are saying ‘see you in September’ and there are signs going up on shop doors saying ‘chiuso per ferie’. But Counterweave Arts is open for business! If you want a cool place to revive, and see some beautiful artwork by Australian artists email us at art[email protected] to arrange an appointment. Currently in the gallery we have works on canvas by Central Australian Aboriginal artists represented by Artists of Ampilatwatja and Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, etchings by Melbourne artists, Lisa Sewards and Trudy Rice, and mixed media and textiles by Felicity Griffin Clark. Click here to see full catalogues of our current stock.

 

Nathania Nangala Granites, Warlukurlangu Jukurrpa (Fire country Dreaming)

 

Lisa Sewards Love is in the air

 

We also have some amazing wearable art in stock, with beautiful handwoven necklaces by Mary Burgess, silk scarves featuring the unique designs of Artists of Ampilatwatja and indigo silk scarves by Felicity Griffin Clark. These are also available in the online shop here.

We are currently working on our autumn/winter 2017 Counterweave Workshop program, with classes including:

  • Introduction to eco and indigo dyeing (one day workshop)

  • Introduction to shibori (one day workshop)

  • Meditating the Spindle – an introduction to mindful spinning (three half-day workshops)

Workshops will include materials, class notes and snacks, for a maximum of six participants, and led by Felicity Griffin Clark, an experienced mixed media and textile artist.  Dyeing and shibori workshops will use a range of natural materials including silk, wool, cotton and paper. Meditating the Spindle will focus on using wool and silk fibres. One to one classes for individual students are also available.

For more information email [email protected] or subscribe to the Counterweave newsletter for updates on exhibitions, opening nights, workshops and early bird discounts. A full autumn program and online booking will be available soon.

Exhibition opening night!

Counterweave Arts Gallery & Workshop had a very successful exhibition opening on Tuesday evening.

The artworks by Trudy Rice, Lisa Sewards, Artist of Ampilatwatja and Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation just glowed on the walls! In spite of the very warm and humid weather we had a steady stream of visitors who  were really captivated by the different responses to landscape by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, and admired the variety of techniques and media used by the artists.

Counterweave is open by appointment – just contact us at [email protected] or through the Counterweave Facebook page to make a time! Free pdf catalogues and price lists are also available.

Warlukurlangu artist – Walter Jangala Brown

Walter Jangala Brown was born in 1977 in Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community 290 km north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. He comes from a long line of artists including Pintupi artist Ronnie Jampijinpa, a highly acclaimed painter and founder of the Papunya Tula Artists group. Walter went to Yirara College, an Aboriginal boarding college in Alice Springs. When he finished school, he worked for the Shire for 2 or 3 years. He now lives in Nyirripi and is married to Valerie. They have three children.

He began painting for Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned and governed art centre located in Yuendumu in 2007. He paints his father’s Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming); Warna Jukurrpa (Snake Dreaming); and Yumari Jukurrpa (a collection of rocks located to the west of Kintore in the Gibson Desert). He also paints his grandfather’s Tingari Cycle. These dreamings relate directly to his land, its features and the plants and animals that inhabit it.

When Walter is not working or painting he plays football and goes hunting.

Walter Jangala Brown, Tingari Cycle (122 x 107 cm) acrylic on canvas POA

This painting depicts a portion of the Tingari cycle, a very important collection of Dreaming narratives from the Western Desert region . The country that this painting depicts is located far to the west of Yuendumu, and spans a vast area of land across the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts in Western Australia . Aboriginal groups that paint the Tingari cycle include the Pintupi, Kukatja, Ngarti, and Walmajarri peoples, among others. The Tingari cycle consists of three major Dreaming tracks.The cycle tells the story of a group of ancient creation ancestors, the Tingari, who travelled across the country .The Tingari took different forms, some human and some animal. Humans were typically initiated men accompanied by ‘punyunyu’ (novices, uninitiated men). The men were sometimes accompanied by extremely powerful initiated women (called variously the ‘Kungka Tjuta,’ ‘Minyma Tjuta, ‘or ‘Kanaputa’) . Like the initiated men, these initiated women were accompanied by uninitiated women to whom they provided a ritual education. Animals featured in the Tingari cycle include the dingo, emu, kingfisher, and western quoll, among others .

As the Tingari travelled over vast areas of the country, they held initiations and other ceremonies, caused or encountered raging bushfires, hunted game, found and cooked bush-tucker, fought and killed one another, disposed of the dead or brought them back to life, interacted with totemic ancestors, copulated illicitly , made and used sacred objects, flew through the air, and died in hailstorms . In the course of these adventures, they either created or became the physical features of the sites they visited, forming rocky outcrops, waterholes , trees, salt lakes, ochre deposits, and so on. These sites which are now regarded as sacred by their descendants, today’s custodians of these places.

The Tingari also laid down social customs n law as it should be practised today. Their journeys form the basis of sacred and secret men’s and women’s laws. Public paintings of th Tingari cycle typically only show the unrestricted portions of these stories.

Traditional iconography is used to represent the Dreamings, associated sites, and other elements of the Tingari cycle. In many paintings of these narratives, ancient wells, and other water features. Lines indicate rainfall and grasses that produced edible seeds after the rain, or routes taken by the Tingari as they travelled. People are represented by semi-circles. Sets of circles can represent the body-designs of the older men who are painting the bodies of the younger men, often as smaller circles.

 

[Information used with kind permission from  the Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Corporation. Copyright of all artwork and text remains with the artists and Aboriginal traditional owners and is administered on their behalf by Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation.]

 

 

unwrapping artworks

There was great excitement here today as we unwrapped the parcels of artworks from Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Corporation. Two huge rolls of carefully kraftpapered and bubblewrapped paintings arrived safely from Australia and were very gently opened and laid flat on our biggest table.

The works are breathtakingly beautiful – photos just can’t convey how much light and movement and colour leaps out of them. Next stage is getting the stretchers ready to gallery wrap the canvases and put them on the walls. Stay tuned!

 

Counterweave Arts opening exhibition

Counterweave Arts is proud to invite you to our opening exhibition, featuring etchings by Australian printmakers Lisa Sewards and Trudy Rice and paintings and textiles from the Ampilatwatja and Warlukurlangu artists of Central Australia. The exhibition opens on Tuesday 27 June at 6.30pm and will be open by appointment from 28 June until Saturday 15 July. If you can’t get to the gallery please email us at [email protected] and we’ll send you a pdf catalogue.

Lisa Sewards, Little Parachute Pigeon 1/8, Etching (solar plate), plate size 9.5×20.5cm, paper 21x28cm, edition of 8, unframed, 2017 POA

Based in Melbourne, Trudy and Lisa have complementary approaches to printmaking and draw on a range of contemporary and traditional techniques including intaglio, etching, linocut, solar plate etching and digital technology.

Lisa Sewards is an award-winning Melbourne based artist with her work represented in collections throughout Australia. Lisa explores themes of memory, safety, silence, hope and strength through recurring images of parachutes and carrier pigeons, and the roles they played during World War II.  The parachute object is the source for her imagery, continually creating storytelling in the absence of text.  Find out more about Lisa here.

Trudy Rice, Red dragonfly with 4 seed pods and green cotton lavender etching (solar plate) 38 x 57 cm, unframed, POA

Trudy Rice is well-known for her sensitive artistic response to the natural world – her work features exquisitely observed and rendered depiction of birds, native plants, insects and sealife.  Much of her inspiration is collected quite close to home, from her garden and around the coastal landscape of Lorne on Victoria’s picturesque Great Ocean Road. Her studio is filled with specimens collected from the bush and sea. Find out more about Trudy here.

The work of Ampilatwatja and Warlukurlangu artists reflects their deep connection to country – we will be featuring different artists from both communities on the blog over the next few weeks. This post highlights the work of Lorraine Napangardi Wheeler of the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation and Joycie Pitjarra Morton of Artists of Ampilatwatja.

Lorraine Napangardi Wheeler,  Lukarrara Jukurrpa (Desert Fringe-rush Seed Dreaming) (30 x 30 cm) POA

Lorraine Napangardi Wheeler’s painting is of  the Lukarrara Jukurrpa, which Jukurrpa belongs to women of the Nakamarra/Napurrurla subsections and to Jakamarra/Jupurrurla men. This Dreaming is associated with a place called Jaralypari, north of Yuendumu. Find out more about Lorraine’s painting here.

Joycie Pitjarra Morton, My Country 61 x 51 cm Acrylic on Linen POA

Joycie Pitjarra Morton paints with Artists of Ampilatwatja.  Joycie’s husband is from Ampilatwatja and she has lived here for many years, however her country is “out Rum Jungle Way.” about 100 kms south of Darwin. In 1952 the Australian Government funded the setting up of a mine and treatment plant to provide uranium oxide concentrate to the UK-US. Although the Rum Jungle mine closed in 1971, one of the main environmental impacts of uranium mining is the creation of large volumes of radioactive mine waste (tailings) which are left behind on the site. Joycie’s land is still recovering from the damage that was done. This painting of Joycie’s depicts a happier time, when she remembers the land from which she came. Find out more about Joycie here.

 

 

 

 

 

new work from Australia

 

Joy Nangala Brown

Yumari Jukurrpa (Yumari Dreaming)

91 x 46 cm

Our first shipments of art from Aboriginal communities in Central Australia have arrived in Italy.  Paintings from the Warlukurlangu Aboriginal Artists Corporation, and paintings and art textiles (handpainted silks scarves and wraps) from Artists of Ampilatwatja will soon be available in the Counterweave Gallery. For information on pricing and to receive a pdf catalogue please contact us at [email protected]

 

Daisy Kemarre Turner

My Mothers Country

30 x 30 cm

Learn more about Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation and Artists of Ampilatwatja on the Counterweave artists page.