Current Issue #488

Celebrating 70 years of Ernabella Arts

Celebrating 70 years of Ernabella Arts

In 2017, the exhibition In These Hands was held at Sturt Gallery to celebrate Ernabella Arts’ 70th birthday, reigniting the relationship established 46 years ago between Australia’s two oldest centres for craft and design. Now, it comes to JamFactory.

The exhibition tells the story of a unique residency and its impact on subsequent generations. It offers a showcase of the contemporary work produced at Ernabella over the period of the relationship.

“It is reigniting a friendship, a relationship, a collaboration that was buried in the archives,” says curator Slavica Zivkovic. “It is reviving that and creating the potential for further things to happen.”

The relationship began in the late 1960s when Elisabeth Nagel, master weaver from Sturt in the Southern Highlands of NSW, travelled to the Pukatja Community in far north-west South Australia where she met Winifred Hilliard, the then manager of the craft industry at Ernabella Mission.

Together, they came up with the initiative that saw five young artists from Ernabella travel to Sturt as part of a residency to learn new weaving techniques. This forged a relationship between the two art centres and set the path for the development of the craft scene in Australia and also contemporary Indigenous art.

Artist at work at Ernabella Arts Centre
Ernabella Arts

Following the run at Sturt Gallery in 2017, In These Hands toured to venues in Canberra, Sydney and now to its last stop at the JamFactory’s Seppeltsfield gallery. It shows the diversity of Ernabella Arts with paintings, ceramics, tjanpi (native grass) weaving and punu (timber) all on display by emerging and senior artists.

In These Hands is about the legacy of what those women did, so it is important to have younger artists and senior elders to show the continuance of In These Hands, the passing on of knowledge,” Zivkovic says. “It’s linking the thread of these organisations, recognising what their role is in the craft movement of Australia but also the individual path they have both taken.”

The exhibition features work by the 2018 recipient of the Ruby Awards’ Premier’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, Alison Milyika Carroll, and more than 20 artists including Rachael Mipantjiti Lionel, Yurpiya Lionel, Imiyari (Yilpi) Adamson, Pepai Jangala Carroll and Katrina Tjitayi.

Not only does the exhibition celebrate the incredible diversity of the arts and crafts being developed at Ernabella over the last 70 years but it also celebrates the importance of the Australian craft industry.

“We recognise each other’s role in the importance of craft,” Zivkovic says. “Sturt is nearly 78 years old and Ernabella was 70 years [old] when this exhibition started, so we have both been supporting craft but in different ways.”

In These Hands shows the long-lasting, positive effect that friendships and collaborations can have in developing understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural institutions, sharing the same passion for arts and crafts.

In These Hands (Mara nyangangka): Celebrating 70 years of Ernabella Arts
Jam Factory, Seppeltsfield
Until Monday, February 11

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