AGSA TARNANTHI Brian Robinson Custodians of the bloomsShowcasing more than 300 artists from across Australia, TARNANTHI – the inaugural Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, opens this week at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

A Kaurna word from the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains, TARNANTHI (pronounced tar-nan-dee) means to come forth or appear – like the sun and the first emergence of light, or a seed sprouting. For many cultures, first light signifies new beginnings.

TARNANTHI is about bringing people together to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of work being created by contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across the country,” says Artistic Director, Nici Cumpston.

In collaboration with 21 key cultural organisations across Adelaide, and with its heart at the Art Gallery of South Australia, TARNANTHI will challenge and delight audiences, casting a new light on Australia’s rich and diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture.

A major highlight of the Festival’s opening weekend will be the TARNANTHI Art Fair at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Opening at 5pm on Friday 9 October, the Art Fair will provide an opportunity to buy works of art directly from more than 40 art centres from across the country as well as from independent South Australian artists.

South Australian Museum (SAM) and the JamFactory and the  will present Shimmer – featuring new works of art by eight artists Sebastian Arrow, Tamara Baillie, Maree Clarke, Janet Fieldhouse, Dale Harding, Grace Lillian Lee and Vicki West responding to the SAM collections exploring the concept of adornment.

Nganmarra: The Container of Life at the Adelaide Botanic Garden’s  Museum of Economic Botany features woven conical mats made by senior Yolngu artists from Bula’Bula Arts at Ramingining in North East Arnhem Land: Frances Djulibing Daingangan, Mary Dhapalany, Robyn Djunginy, Julie Djulibing Malibirr and  Evonne Munuyngu. Using a combination of traditional methods and new techniques, the artists express themselves and their culture through woven fibre.

Welcoming audiences to the exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia is Bush Footy – a series of carvings and paintings celebrating AFL by husband and wife Dinny Kunoth Kemarre and Josie Kunoth Petyarre. Whatever your code, the atmosphere created in these paintings and sculptures will challenge the assertion that art and sport map opposite ends of the cultural spectrum.

Other highlights include: a comprehensive survey exhibition of master Ngarrindjeri weaver, and internationally esteemed artist Yvonne Koolmatrie; Brian Robinson investigates the cultural narratives and traditional customs of the Zenadh Kes Islanders of the Torres Strait through the idiom of contemporary sculpture in his major work of art titled Custodian of the Blooms; and created in the tradition of Albert Namatjira by his descendants, the skirts and corresponding watercolours on display in The Namatjira Collection, will enchant both art and fashion lovers alike.

In her most ambitious installation to date, Yhonnie Scarce suspends more than 2000 individually blown-glass bush yams in the shape of the nuclear bomb blasts conducted at Maralinga in the north of South Australia between 1953 and 1963; while explosive seed Dreamings from Lajamanu, finely structured renditions of Country from Ernabella and Mimili Maku Arts, collaborative dynamics from Tjala Arts and iconic forms from Iwantja are among this line-up of bush talent in the Desert Salon.

“This Festival celebrates the role that artists play in shaping our world,” says Nick Mitzevich, Director Art Gallery of South Australia. “By encouraging emerging artists to make new work, supporting established artists to present to new audiences and honouring respected and established artists through the presentation of their work in new ways, TARNANTHI has kept a strong focus on artists.”

TARNANTHI runs from 8 – 18 October 2015 with a number of exhibitions continuing until 17 January 2016. For more information, visit: www.tarnanthi.com.au for details.

Image: Brian Robinson, Wuthathi and Maluyligal people, Torres Strait Islands, Custodian of the Blooms, 2014 mixed media – photo courtesy of the artist and Mossenson Galleries