Antalya, Northern Territory, Australia born 1947
Ernabella, Central Desert, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: textiles, batik on silk satin
Tjunkaya Tapaya first learnt batik at a workshop in Ernabella in 1971. The Ernabella arts adviser, Winifred Hilliard, had secured funding and employed Leo Brereton, a New York-based artist, to come to Ernabella and teach the local Aboriginal women this art form. The women of this region were already quite competent in many forms of art practice, including rug making, weaving, painting, drawing and pokerwork as the art centre had been established in 1948 and had already produced many art and craft items.
To consolidate batik as an important and significant practice within the region, a group of Pitjantjatjara women, including Tapaya, travelled to the Batik Research Institute in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 1974. This was the first of many collaborations between batik artists of Indonesia and Aboriginal women from central Australia. The first month-long workshop and the visit to Indonesia ensured that Aboriginal women from Central Australia would always hold a definitive place in Australian textile history.
Batik cloth, known as ‘raiki wara’ in Ernabella, is a beautiful feminine medium that is both durable and seductive. Tapaya has worked in this medium for over 20 years, and is acknowledged as one of the great exponents of this art form. Her work is graceful, poetic and fluid, vividly capturing the nature of her country. The exquisite layering of colours and the composition of designs and patterns depicted in Tapaya’s silk batiks combine to transport the viewer into the central Australian landscape in all its rich manifestations.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010