Ernabella Arts is a community based arts association
through which artists can sell their work or come in and paint
on a daily basis. Ernabella is known for its magnificent fabrics
as well as printmaking on paper and paintings on canvas, linen
Ernabella is 440 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs,
just south of the Northern Territory border in South Australia.
The community was established in 1937 as a Presbyterian Mission
and the surrounding country is home to approximately 400 Pitjantjatjara
people. It is the oldest permanent settlement on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.
Ernabella Arts began in 1948, making it the oldest Aboriginal
Arts Centre. The centre employs a coordinator to assist members
in marketing and developing their products.
The craft room was set up to provide employment for Pitjantjatjara
and Yankunytjatjara women by applying their spinning skills to wool
from the sheep run on the Mission station. From this beginning women
and girls have produced art in many different media, all incorporating
the distinctive Ernabella design.
Batik has been synonymous with Ernabella since the mid 1970s and
the resultant silks have featured in many national and international
exhibitions. Silkscreened fabrics have been produced there since the
Woollen work became less economical to produce by the late 1960s and the artists were introduced to batik as a fabric decoration technique. Batik quickly became a signature art form for Ernabella. Artists also used the batik design medium for hand-tufted rugs and carpets. Batik (lost wax) technique is also used to decorate a range of ceramic pieces made in the Ernabella ceramic studio which began in 2003.
Since attending a printmaking conference at Northern Territory University
in 1993, Ernabella artists have also been making etchings and
lithographs on paper in collaboration with printers from Northern
Using skills acquired in fabric design, Ernabella women have
excelled in these print mediums and their work has been exhibited
extensively in Australia and overseas. They have continued to
make regular printmaking trips to Darwin.
Painting styles went through radical developments from 2002 and Ernabella painting now encompasses subjects drawn from Tjukurpa (Dreaming stories); mai putitja (bush food stories) and elements of the early anapalyaku walka (Ernabella style).
Ernabella work is represented in the major public galleries
and in private collections in Australia and overseas and has
been featured in a number of recently books on Aboriginal Art.
The artists have their own Ernabella
Arts Web site.