Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art

From mid-October through to late January, Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Art showcases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across the country, sharing their stories and culture.

As well as exhibitions, the festival includes an art fair, artist talks, performances and events at The Art Gallery of South Australia and venues across South Australia.

Wangkangurru artist Marika Davies is the curator of the Drifting Sands exhibition displayed at the Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery. Drifting Sands features the work of 7 remote and regional women artists who have told the stories of strength within women, with artworks referring to the influences of women in the past who have helped shape their lives.

“So the gallery is based here in Port Pirie on Nukunu country and in the exhibition we have seven ladies. And that came about after seeing Sandra Saunders’ works of seven women that inspired her along her life, in her journey. So in that I thought, well, let's have seven artists, that way it all connects back to the seven sister story.”

For Marika, the opportunity to curate Drifting Sands is, in her own words, ‘bucket-list stuff’. 

‘It's not just myself going to the top. I'm bringing all these people, these artists with me for the ride as well, which is so important and so more rewarding in that way.’

Working closely with Marika is Ursula Halpin. Irish born, and an artist herself, Ursula has been the director and arts and cultural officer at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery for over two years. For her, allowing a safe space for Aboriginal artists to exhibit is critical. 

‘I think one of the biggest things I've learned from Marika is about cultural safety - so ensuring that our galleries are safe spaces for Aboriginal artists to exhibit. Because obviously as we know, there's so much heart and trauma in their histories that not all of them are able to readily come into a space. But with somebody like Marika charging ahead, they'll all follow her into those safe spaces. And then we hand that over with trust and love, to Marika, to do the very best for the people that she knows really well. And then we support her through that with our partnership with Country Arts SA, Regional Arts Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Tarnanthi, BHP, wherever we can get support. It's really important.’ 

BHP is the principal partner of the Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art, and, like Marika, is supportive of the need to help raise the profile of Indigenous art.

“This is big to me because I'm not using artists that a lot of people would go to. I am showcasing our regional artists who don't have this opportunity all too often.“