Spinifex — 25th Anniversary Exhibition — Essay

IT WAS AN ATOMIC EXPLOSION THAT SAW THE SPINIFEX PEOPLE’S WAY OF LIFE UPENDED. AND IT WAS A CREATIVE EXPLOSION THAT BEGAN A PAINTING MOVEMENT THAT STILL THRIVES TODAY. IF A POSITIVE CAN BE TAKEN FROM THE TOTAL DISPOSSESSION OF ONE’S COUNTRY, IT IS, THAT A SPIRIT AND CULTURE CANNOT BE SO READILY EXTINGUISHED AND THAT THE SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE CAN BE MANIFESTLY WITHIN A PEOPLE AT ALL TIMES.

Throughout the Great Victoria Desert in the mid-century the Spinifex People carried their culture with them as they traversed great tracts of red sand country. They walked across vast spinifex plains and open woodlands, through secluded valleys flanked by majestic sand ridges so high, they blocked out large portions of the endless sky. They read the landscape like a great tome, a mapped environment that also held their spiritual life. For them the two were inseparable. At certain times, they would gather in large ceremonial groups at sacred locations for powerful religious purposes and to engage in social connection. These People lived and moved in an arid but beautiful land, unchallenged and unchanged for eons, unaware that a new and dangerous world had begun encroaching on the far boundaries of their very existence, but the Spinifex People’ would soon find themselves impacted by this world.

Fred Grant talks of the truck and trailer that came to his naked family, near the site of Pirilyi when he was a boy. ‘No clothes’ he says, and he laughs while describing trying to put on trousers for the first time. All his family were removed from the land they knew, that which held their means for survival and the moral compass needed for a spiritual life. The truck and trailer were part of the major sweeps of ‘any natives’ who may be in the area, even though the country had so readily been termed uninhabited by the new and dangerous world. He and others were taken some 1OOOkm south to Cundeelee Mission – An American Evangelical Christian Mission – that was within two hours of the debilitating vices that would ravage, incarcerate, and decimate the population for years to come. And from those early years of separation from country, the Spinifex People planned and plotted a thread on which to follow, back to the land that had held them from birth. The Spinifex People were determined to return home.

Noli Rictor
KAMANTI
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 23O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-22
$15,2OO
Bruce Tjinpun Parker
KATALA
2021
ACRYLIC ON LINEN
137 X 9O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-3O2
$2,4OO
Byron Brooks
WATI KIPARA
2018
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 18-265
$8,OOO
LAWRENCE PENNINGTON
PUKARA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-393
$15,5OO
Ned Grant
YAWA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-391
$9,2OO
Dora Parker
PUKARA
2022
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
137 X 90 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-23
$2,200
SIMON HOGAN
Lingka
2022
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
200 x 137 cm
Provenance: Spinifex Arts Project, WA cat 22-17
Lennard Walker
KULYURU
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
23O X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-38
$15,2OO
Ned GrantLAWRENCE PENNINGTONSIMON HOGAN
PILA NGURU
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 23O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-1
$33,2OO
Ngalpingka Simms
WAYIYUL
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
200 X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-7
$7,2OO
MINYMA TJUTA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 9O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-99
$4,OOO
Patju Presley
MINYMA KANKA
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
200 X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-39
$22,OOO
Myrtle Pennington
KANPALA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
90 X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-361
$5,200
IAN RICTOR
KAMANTI
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
14O X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-126
$5,5OO
Winmati Roberts
21-390
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-39O
$5,6OO
Ngalpingka Simms
21-127
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 140 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-127
$5,OOO
Ned Grant
WATI KUTJARA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-366
$9,2OO
IAN RICTOR
TJARA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
11O X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-312
$4,5OO
Myrtle Pennington
KANPALA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
200 X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA 21-97
$9,500
Patju Presley
PALKA-PALKA CREEK
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-372
$22,OOO
SIMON HOGAN
LINGKA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-98
$13,800
IAN RICTOR
KAMANTI MUNU TUWAN
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-8O
$7,6OO
Lennard Walker
21-32
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
9O X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-32
$3,2OO
Fred Grant
KUPANYA
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 9O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-41
$4,6OO
SIMON HOGANLAWRENCE PENNINGTON
LINGKA MUNU MITUNA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-335
$19,6OO
Noli Rictor
KAMANTI
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-37
$8,OOO
IAN RICTOR
KAMANTI
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 2OO CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-49
$7,6OO
LAWRENCE PENNINGTON
MITUNA
2021
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
137 X 90 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-166
$7,000
TIMO HOGAN
LAKE BAKER
2021
ACRYLIC ON LINEN
200 X 23O CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 21-241
NFS
Kanta Donnegan
MINYMA TJUTA AT PIRAPI
2022
SYNTHETIC POLYMER PAINT ON CANVAS
2OO X 137 CM
PROVENANCE: SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT, WA CAT 22-42
$9,2OO

They depict, with concentrated creativity, the journey of the first beings, the leaders, the teachers, the ones who came before and shaped the landscape into what you see today. With ease, they recall the movements of the first beings to significant sites and recreate them in a harmonious composition with equal reverence.”

— SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT

That their spiritual lands were deemed to belong to others did not deter them. That their places of worship had been desecrated and poisoned, kept them wanting a return, to allay their fears of an uninhabited terrain and a landscape full of meaning without the people who knew it. And as they watched the new world take the path of destruction on their kin, they made the long journey northward to their traditional lands with overwhelming emotion.

Those men and women who were removed as young adults returned to a place they never forgot and began the arduous task to enshrine, what was always theirs, into the new world law. It is here they decided to tangibly portray their country in a painted composition, using intricate depiction of the birthright and authority, of a landscape brimming with meaning. Two collaborative paintings, a ‘Men’s Combined’ and a ‘Women’s Combined’ would be presented as evidence, in the court of Native Title. Visually documenting this knowledge of country delivered the correlation between artistic collaboration and recognition of cultural ownership within a legal framework. Notwithstanding, forty years after atomic bombs were exploded on a lived landscape by new world ignorance, the Spinifex People finally had ownership, of a land they never relinquished and of the home they always grieved for.

Today those same artists still tell all that is relevant within sites of importance and sing in harmony of a cultural landscape that lives and breathes for and of its people.

BRIAN HALLETT

Get the latest updates & news direct to your inbox…