Art Gallery of South Australia announces Tarnanthi 2020 program

AGSA-Wawiriya-Burton-Ngayuku-ngura-My-Country-2018-photo-by-Grant-HancockThe Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) has announced the exhibition Open Hands for this year’s Tarnanthi, AGSA’s annual celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Open Hands will be held from 16 October until 31 January 2021 at the Art Gallery of South Australia. AGSA also announces that in 2020, the Tarnanthi Art Fair will be held from 4 – 6 December 2020.

Open Hands highlights how the creativity of First Nations women artists forms a vital cultural link in sharing knowledge across generations. Through the act of making, artists channel deep connections to Country and culture.

Tarnanthi’s creative vision is led by Barkandji artist and curator Nici Cumpston, who has recently been recognised with an OAM for her leadership in presenting Aboriginal art.

Open Hands, celebrates the ongoing and often unseen work that women in communities do to maintain culture,” says Cumpston. “Keeping these stories alive and sharing knowledge is deeply embedded within everyday life across Australia.”

For this year’s Tarnanthi, artists have expressed themselves in a variety of media, including painting, works on paper, photography, moving image, sound installation, weaving, ceramics and sculpture. The thread that binds these works together from across the continent is the role of art. The stories they share are as rich and diverse as their practices.

The next wave of work from artists in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands of South Australia focuses on bold new ways forward with drawing – an important art form that is embedded in teaching culture. The resulting works etch stories into wood, photography and works on paper.

Also from the heart of Central Australia are the vibrant paintings of life in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) that have been transformed into animations by artists from Tangentyere Art Centre.

Meanwhile, Lena Yarinkura and her daughter Yolanda Rostron, from Central Arnhem Land, have made an installation of expertly woven sculptures from natural materials found on their homelands. Their work shares the stories associated with Ngalbenbe, the Sun Story, and relies on the ingenuity of the human hand to bring stories to life.

From the hands of Naomi Hobson in far north Queensland comes Adolescent Wonderland, a series of evocative photographic portraits of young people in her community of Coen, which tell the stories of life in this small town.

Also, among the 87 artists in Tarnanthi 2020 are mother-daughter duo Sonja Carmichael and Elisa-Jane Carmichael, from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). Together, they have created delicate woven objects deeply embedded in culture. These objects reappear as ghostly images within large scale textiles using the cyanotype alternative photographic technique.

The annual Tarnanthi Art Fair, designed as a COVID-safe event for 2020, will be held in early December. This year’s Art Fair will feature a curated display of works for sale, carefully selected by art centres.

“Creating art is a vital source of income that supports economic empowerment and cultural resilience in remote communities,” said AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM. “Through the Tarnanthi Art Fair, buyers are guaranteed that every dollar from sales goes directly back to artists and their communities.”

Tarnanthi will also have its first international offering in 2020, in a collaboration with the APY Art Centre Collective. Presenting new works by thirty-four artists from the APY Lands, the exhibition will occupy an entire floor of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, Brittany.


The 2020 Tarnanthi exhibition Open Hands will run 16 October until 31 January 2021 at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The Tarnanthi Art Fair will be held from 4 – 6 December 2020. For more information, visit: www.agsa.sa.gov.au for details.

Image: Wawiriya Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1925, Pipalyatjara, South Australia, Ngayuku ngura – My Country, 2018, Amata, South Australia, synthetic polymer paint on linen; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2019, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide – photo by Grant Hancock

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