Punuku Tjukurpa is a nationally touring exhibition comprising around 80 mainly wooden objects (punu) made by artists from Maruku Arts, an art centre based at the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, near Uluru in the Central Desert. Representing the work of 11 Anangu artists, the wooden objects include carvings of various animals, piti (carved bowls), tjara (shields), miru (spearthrowers), kali (boomerangs), tjutinya (clubs), and walka boards. The works are made recently as well as drawing on Maruku’s archive (dating from the mid-1980s) which also includes photography, film and signage that also features in the exhibition. The exhibition intends overall to cultivate a deeper appreciation of punu, and a deeper appreciation of its relationship to Tjukurpa (Dreaming, Law), i.e., that while some objects may be functional (as in bowls and shields), they can also express ceremonial and sacred dimensions.
Punuku Tjukurpa is curated by Steve Fox and presented in association with Maruku Arts (Maruku@Uluru). Steve Fox is an ex-Director of NCCA (then 24hr Art) and also ex-Director of Maruku Arts (1997-2006) during which time he helped to establish the careers of the exhibition’s artists. He previously curated a major exhibition of work by Maruku artists at Gallerie Handwerk, Munich (Germany).
Maruku Arts was established in 1984, initially an extension of Amata Arts and Crafts. From the outset it focused on making punu, with work initially coming from Amata, Uluru, Docker River, Wingellina, Pipalyatjara, Indulkana, Mimili, Fregon and Ernabella. Over time other communities found representation through Maruku. Today it represents around 900 Anangu artists from over 20 remote communities across the Central and Western deserts.
Punuku Tjukurpa is a Visions of Australia touring exhibition from Artback NT: Arts Development and Touring in conjunction with the Australia Council for the Arts and Northern Territory Department of Tourism & Culture.
punu: anything made of wood, especially artefacts and implements, also living/growing tree or bush or a piece of wood, stick, cut-off branches
-ku: case ending; indicates the owner or rightful user of something, the custodian or caretaker
Tjukurpa: story, Dreaming, Law
In the artist's words, 'Australia, long before it had that name is designed to take the viewer on a journey along the painted make-believe landscape, based on the country some of us now live in and others have been in for a long time. It will start at the beginning of time and by the inclusion of certain evidence of humans, animals, and plants, it will bring the viewer up to relatively recent times.'
Katherine Bradley is a Darwin-based artist with a landscape painting-based practice which dates from the late 1980s when she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the South Australian College of Advanced Education. Katherine has held numerous solo exhibitions around Australia beginning with Shelter in an Australian landscape (1995, Geraldton Regional Gallery) and, most recently, Australia, before it had that name (Series 1) (2014, Framed Gallery, Darwin) which laid the foundation for her current exhibition to occupy NCCA's Screenroom as a 30-plus-metre frieze. Also strongly informing the exhibition is a 2016 residency at Territory Wildlife Park which enabled the artist to closely study local flora and fauna and seasonal changes (across 6 Top End seasons).
Katherine also holds a Master of Fine Arts (1992, University of Tasmania) and she is a previous finalist in the Togart Award (2013).