Tjuntjuntjara Punu Project
19 July - 21 August 2013
A community project that involves the cross generational sharing of skills has led to an exhibition of punu or wood sculptures created in the small Aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjarra, located on the Spinifex lands in the Great Victoria Desert, 700 kms east of Kalgoorlie. A group of the artists will be travelling to attend the opening night.
The Tjuntjuntjara Punu Project saw artists of all ages making bush trips with tools and equipment, to gather material and create punu works. On a typical punu bush trip the desert soundscape was accompanied by the rhythmic chopping of axes, and the sounds of rasping and filing by the focused artists. During this creative process, conversation would often be centred around stories – stories about animals, about family and about punu, all in a mixture of Pitjantjatjara and English.
The Spinifex people are strong in culture and the elders are highly skilled artefact makers with a passion for working with timber and teaching the younger generation. A granddaughter recalls, “I first remember making punu with my grandparents when I was 13, I was shown how to make a lizard. The old people make punu at home or out sitting under trees.”
Project facilitator Ange Leech says “Throughout the project the most enjoyable activities included bush trips where artists of all ages would take tools and equipment, gather material and create punu works. Here young and old would practice traditional modes of sourcing the soft wood for carving (punutjula) roots of the Guangdong tree (wyanu). “
“These trips would often involve other cultural activities including collecting maku (witchety grub) and cooking damper. Artworks would often be swapped, left or shared, as the actual activity and process of working timber carries as much value as the works themselves.”
Ange Leech adds “The show at Japingka Gallery will present elders and grandchildren’s punu with a selection of Spinifex paintings by senior artists. There will be a range of artefacts, all quite unique as we have had some different timbers to work with. The theme of the show will be the transition of artforms and punu making across the generations.”
“Young people work very naturally and most are as focused as the old people. When starting a new work young people use the same tools and processes that the old people use to make artefacts.”
“Once they have the general shape of their subject they can jump on a few machines and fancy gadgets. I am excited to say the kids are pulling off some pretty gnarly work on both machines and hand tools. We are in the process of making a film for the school covering the students’ involvement in the project.”
“This punu puppet characters have been a bit of a hit. Being out bush has been absolutely fantastic, I am a sad the project is coming to a close,” Ange said. This exhibition will be on display at Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery in Fremantle until 21 August.
It is presented in association with Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation, project facilitator Ange Leech, and supported by Country Arts WA, Shire of Menzies, AngloGold Ashanti Australia and Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School.