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Amata art and communityTjala Arts - The Amata Community Art Centre


Tjala Arts (formerly Minymaku Arts) is a relatively new organisation compared to most Aboriginal art centres. It was only in 1997 that the local artists and crafts people of Amata and Tjurma Homelands began working to find a permanent home for their activities.

Until then they had sold their work to the very few passing tourists or the government employees such as teachers, builders, nursing and council staff who quickly became inundated with the local art and craft.

Minymaku Art Centre

In 1981 Amata people were the first artists to take their 'punu' or wood carvings to Uluru (Ayers Rock) to cash in on the expanding tourist market. This expedition was so successful that it marked the beginning of Maruku Arts at Uluru which now sells punu to tourists from Australia and overseas.

The punu, decorated with linear burn marks in repetitive curves, have continued to be produced by the Amata people. The designs used on the punu have been adapted and developed into the abstract designs now seen in paintings by the artists at Minymaku Arts.

Amata arts have come a long way since the 1970s when batik, natural dying, spinning, weaving and leatherwork over shadowed what little painting was being produced. Once Minymaku Arts was established in late 1999 there was a shift away from craft to concentrating on fine art and developing traditional symbols or ideas into contemporary abstract imagery. The artists have adopted new techniques and media including acrylic paint, solarplate dry-point prints.

The Arts Coordinator who arrived in late 2002, Sara Twigg-Patterson, set herself two tasks: firstly, to improve the quality of painting and imagery and, secondly, to convince the senior male elders of Amata that painting was not just for women.

The artists have responded well to this support. The 2003 Desert Mob exhibition in Alice Springs showed the dynamic new paintings beginning to emerge from the women at Minymaku Arts, based on an extended, brighter colour palette and experimentation resulting in fresh and striking imagery.

Later in 2003, Hector Burton joined the art centre, becoming the first tjilpi (male elder) to paint at Amata. Hector was followed by Paddy Kunmanara, Mick Wikilyiri, Barney Wangkin and Ray Ken - all of whom have developed into sought-after artists. In late 2004, 85 year old Tiger Palpatja joined the other men.

The original name for the centre, Minymaku Arts, was chosen by the women who initiated the art centre in 1997. The name was appropriate at the time because it is the Pitjantjatjara word for 'belonging to women'. Now that women and men, young and old participate at the art centre, the artists decided in late 2005 that it was time for a name change - to something more inclusive.

Tjala Arts was the first name suggested and was never improved upon during the many discussions held in 2005. It was approved in October 2005 after consultation with other artists from the APY Lands. Tjala means Honey Ant - a favourite traditional bush food of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara. Tjala is also the Tjukurpa or Creation Story for Amata where the centre is located.

The art centre is represented in both public and private collections within Australia and internationally, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Victoria and the South Australian Museum.


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