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.
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
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
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