Tjunkaya Tapaya OAM

Artist Tjunkaya Tapaya OAM
Title Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters)
Year 2022

Acrylic on canvas

Dimensions 99 × 168 cm
Art Centre Ernabella Arts →

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Tjunkaya Tapaya OAM

Tjunkaya Tapaya OAM grew up at the Ernabella Mission where she went to school and later worked learning and demonstrating to her peers various domestic skills. In mission days, the building which is now the art centre was originally used as a food hall. In 1948 it became the craft room, where the first work was by women, spinning wool and rug making. Tjunkaya began work in the craft room in the medium of batik and became one of the outstanding artists with work in several public collections. Recently, Tjunkaya has chosen to concentrate exclusively on painting and tjanpi sculpture. Her work has been seen in numerous exhibitions in Australia and internationally since 1971, in both public and private galleries. In 2020 Tjunkaya was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of her work in education and art.

Artist statement

Kungkarangkalpa means the Seven Sisters. This is an extensive creation story that relates to the Pleiades constellation in the southern hemisphere. The story traverses Australia taking on different forms, however local women are privy to the part of the story which takes place in the country near Pukatja (Ernabella). For this part of the story, the man called Nyiru is chasing the sisters as he wants to sleep with the oldest sister. All the younger sisters are deeply afraid of him. As Nyiru is chasing the sisters, he tries to catch them by using magic to turn himself into the most tempting kampurara (bush tomatoes) for the sisters to eat and the most beautiful ili (fig) tree for the sisters to camp under. However, the sisters are aware of his magic and go hungry and run through the night rather than be caught by Nyiru. Eventually, to escape Nyiru, the sisters fly into the sky where they turn into stars and form the constellation.