Celebrating Puṉuku Tjukurpa

— by Rebecca Renshaw

Maṟuku artist, Selena Kulitja, demonstrating hot wire technique.

Puṉuku Tjukurpa was the first exhibition from the Maṟuku Arts archive to tour nationally. The collection is housed at Muṯitjulu which is located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park of the Northern Territory. The exhibition featured eighty-eight puṉu objects such as piti (wooden bowls), miru (spearthowers), tjaṟa (shields), kuḻaṯa (spears) and selected carvings of birds and desert animals. The artform unique to Central Australia, is important in the maintenance of Aṉangu culture, ensuring that the sharing of knowledge is passed down through the generations.

The exhibition toured from 2015 to 2019 through five mainland states and two territories. After five years on the road, the final venue for ‘Puṉuku Tjukurpa’ was at the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs | Mparntwe.

The opening night and weekend celebrated the “coming home” of the exhibition with Maṟuku Arts Aṉangu Directors, thirty-four artists from the Central Desert, Clive Scollay, General Manager at Maṟuku Arts and Stephen Fox, Curator of ‘Puṉuku Tjukurpa’ all in attendance. We spoke with three strong and inspirational women about what they would like to share with the wider Australian community about the exhibition and Maṟuku Arts.

Last night we were dancing, teaching the young girls, for the next generation to take over. At this place, grandmother, my mum and our young ones were dancing together. The girls learn from their grandmothers and mothers. Dancing makes them strong, happy and proud.

Selena Kulitja, Chairperson, Maṟuku Arts



Senior Maṟuku artist and Director of Maṟuku Arts Rene Kulitja reflected upon the essence of the exhibition ‘Puṉuku Tjukurpa’ and the importance of Maṟuku Arts in ensuring cultural knowledge and practices are continued and passed through the generations.

The weekend further celebrated Aṉangu culture with public programs that introduced participants to carving timpilypa palyani (music sticks) and the process of decorating walka board using waru (fire) and hot wire techniques. There were also demonstrations on kuḻaṯa (spear) throwing and kali (boomerang) making.

Maṟuku artist Dallas Smythe spoke about the process of making puṉu objects from finding the wood to carving and design techniques.

Palya!


Video 1: Archival footage of an Inma, Maṟuku Arts, shown at the opening of ‘Puṉuku Tjukurpa’, Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs | Mparntwe, November 2018. The footage was used to teach the next generation of young women.

Video 2: Young women performing an Inma at the opening of ‘Puṉuku Tjukurpa’, Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs | Mparntwe, November 2018. The women performed following the showing of the archival Inma footage.

Interviews conducted by Jo Foster and Rebecca Renshaw

Translation by Clive Scollay

Photographs and footage taken by Rebecca Renshaw