Art & Collectors is proud to partner with Minyma Kutjara Arts Project, located in the remote community of Irrunytju (Wingellina), ten kilometres from where the borders of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia meet.
Led by and representing Irrunytju artists, the story of Minyma Kutjara is marked by resilience and determination in the face of adversities – the Stolen Generation, drought and the infamous British Nuclear Tests at Maralinga. As it stands today, Minyma Kutjara is a proud celebration of community and Country, a place for artists to learn, explore, create and share culture.
In this collection of paintings, explore the practices of Minyma Kutjara artists – representations of culture and unbroken story, told with vibrancy and beauty.
Rene Nelson - 'Minyma Kutjara'
Rebecca Parker - 'The Milky Way'
The History of Irrunytju Country
For thousands of years, the Yarnangu people of Irrunytju cared for their Country without interruption. This was threatened in the 1930s by assimilation policy and a severe drought, compounded in 1953 by Britain testing atomic bombs at Maralinga, not far from Irrunytju. Authorised by the Australian government, twelve bombs were detonated, some producing mushroom clouds as tall as 47,000 feet, radioactive fallout drifting all the way to Townsville.
Little thought was paid to the region’s Traditional Owners, with just one naval officer left to find and warn people, covering hundreds of thousands of kilometres by car. Irrunytju people and their Country were profoundly harmed by the event, driven from their Land. In her work, Minyma Kutjara artist Noreen Parker presents her mum’s memory of the event:
“When my mother was a young girl about 15 years, the people were living in the bush in wiltjas in the Spinifex Country. My mother told me this story, how the people were all siting down and they saw a big light and then lots of smoke, the smoke just went up and up and up.
Noreen Parker - 'The Bomb'
The people were frightened; they thought it was a walpa pulka (big storm) or the wanampi (rainbow serpent). My Uncle, my mother’s brother had gone to hunt bush tucker in Maralinga Country, he never came back, he died from that bomb, that’s a true story’.”
Installation of Noreen Parker - 'The Bomb'
Despite the persistent and devastating fallout of the Marlinga testing, Yarnangu people have remained resilient. They returned to their Land in 1967, establishing Irrunytju Community that is named after a rock role in the foothills of the Tomkinson Range, perpetually filled with water.
In 2005, after a ten year struggle, the historic Ngaanyatjarra Lands native title case recognised Yarnangu as the rightful owners of the Land. Spanning 188,000 square kilometres over the Gibson and Great Victorian Deserts, it remains the largest native title transfer in Australian history.
Cynthia Burke - 'Landscape Wingellina'
The Story of Minyma Kutjara
Minyma Kutjara Arts Project was established in 2012 after the region’s first arts centre, the renowned Irrunytju Arts, closed in 2007.
Initiated by and for the community, this new iteration was named after the Minyma Kutjara creation story. With aspects told in whispers, this story is sacred, associated with courtship, pregnancy and childbirth. It tells of two sisters' journeys across vast lands. Against resistance, they arrive on the Irrunytju side of Kaltukatjara, the older sister piggybacking her younger sister. Here lies a mountain called Mana, its topography reminiscent of their silhouette.
Rene Nelson tells the story in her work.
“The places where the sisters travelled and rested can be traced through the desert; their actions often created landmarks, rock-holes and mountain ranges. Near Irrunytju the sisters sat on two hills and made hair belts in preparation for important women’s business. They threw their wana (digging stick) creating the rockhole here.”
Rene Nelson - 'Minyma Kutjara'
Eva Baker - 'Minyma Kutjara'
Joylean Roberts - 'Minyma Kutjara'