The Amata community is located in the far north of South Australia
on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal Lands. The community
art centre is called Tjala Arts (formerly Minymaku Arts).
Amata was established as a cattle outstation
in the 1960s, to take the pressure off the increasing growth
of Pukatja (Ernabella). Amata is located in the far north west
of South Australia close to the Northern Territory and South
Australian border. It is approximately 500 kilometres south
west of Alice Springs. For a sketch map of the region, click
here (opens a new browser window).
The community lies at the foot of the Musgrave Ranges and is
made up of approximately 300 Anangu (Aboriginal people) with
kinship ties to three groups from South Australia, Northern
Territory and Western Australia. These are the Pitjantjatjara,
Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra groups. The community serves
the needs of Anangu within Amata, as well as surrounding homelands
Much of the imagery in Amata paintings is based on the designs
first used by artists in their 'punu' or wood carvings.
The punu, decorated with linear burn marks in repetitive
curves, continue to be produced by the Amata people. Amata's
Tjukurrpa is the Honey Ant Ancestor (Tjala).
Amata paintings contain symbolic elements and use design conventions
that vary slightly from artist to artist. The most common elements
Dots were originally used to outline design elements, but
are now used to cover entire sections of a painting. Dots
have a number of origins including replicating drawings originally
worked in the sand, representing bird down, topography or
vegetation. They may also mask sacred designs or be used to
produce visually stimulating effects.
The designs can be interpreted in many ways depending on
the viewer's knowledge of ritual, country, food sources and
associated Tjukurpa. They may show aspects of everyday life,
details of the land and may be far more complex in meaning
than explained by the artist. This is because the designs
may contain meanings that are intended for public display
but hide those that are not.
The paintings may also show food sources or the seasonality
of the landscape as seen in paintings about bush tucker. The
paintings do not have a horizon, hence the viewing or hanging
orientation is not important unless indicated by the artist.