APY col­lec­tive goes to town with re­mote art


It was per­haps in­evitable the run­away suc­cess of APY Lands artists this year would raise ques­tions.

How did they do it? Should others im­i­tate or crit­i­cise? An­other ques­tion be­ing qui­etly de­bated is whether the stum­bling ad­vance of most re­mote art cen­tres can con­tinue, or if el­ders’ de­sires for more jobs and bet­ter liv­ing stan­dards re­quire an Abo­rig­i­nal-led pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion of the in­dus­try.

In the af­ter­glow of top awards and high-pro­file com­mis­sions, Anangu Pit­jan­t­jat­jara Yankun­yt­jat­jara Lands artists hope to lock in their gains with a new Syd­ney gallery promis­ing a bush-to-board­room sup­ply chain (for some works) and more em­ploy­ment.

APY Art Cen­ter Col­lec­tive board mem­ber Nyur­paya Kaika Bur­ton ex­plains: “It’s time to chal­lenge the struc­tures, to see whether this in­come, which is al­most the only earned in­come many com- mu­ni­ties re­ceive, can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence to com­mu­nity life.

“We’ve got a good chance be­cause we’ve got all these strong old peo­ple, and we’ve got all these young peo­ple en­gaged … the ques­tion is how do we lock it in? It’s about work­ing as a group.”

Ms Bur­ton and others have long com­plained about car­pet­bag­gers and forg­ers, supine over­sight bod­ies and un­de­liv­ered prom­ises. They feel they have strived to de- velop busi­nesses and com­bat dys­func­tion but are yet to reap the ma­te­rial ben­e­fits fully.

Last year, a group of APY arts or­gan­i­sa­tions con­tro­ver­sially re­signed from Anan­guku Arts, South Aus­tralia’s peak body. About 10 have joined the APY Art Cen­tre Col­lec­tive set up to im­ple­ment el­ders’ vi­sion for re­gional busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Skye O’Meara, who runs APY- ACC, stresses it “won’t be get­ting into the peak (body) space” and is not an ad­vo­cacy group.

“There’s no point in us du­pli­cat­ing what the best gal­leries do, but we do want to sup­port op­por­tu­ni­ties where op­por­tu­ni­ties don’t ex­ist now,” she says. “There are many artists who work on the lands who are not rep­re­sented, and should be. The gallery/project space will pro­vide these artists with their first plat­form and al­low el­ders con­trol of dis­tri­bu­tion.”

If all goes to plan, APYACC will soon open a gallery in Dar­linghurst with phil­an­thropic sup­port in­volv­ing Clare Ainsworth Her­schell, ac­tor Amanda MapleBrown and artist Ben Quilty. “If we don’t in­crease our in­come then we will leave a worse life for our chil­dren than we ex­pe­ri­enced our­selves,” says artist Iluwanti Ken.

Artists Tjungkara Ken and Yar­itji Young vis­ited the space re­cently and emerged de­lighted. “It’s a good lo­ca­tion with plenty of space,” Tjungkara Ken says. “It’s a fresh start for Anangu busi­ness and an op­por­tu­nity for new ex­changes and col­lab­o­ra­tions.”


Artists Yar­itji Young and Tjungkara Ken in­spect the space

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