Desert Mob: Exhibition, Symposium and MarketPlace

A captivating showcase of Aboriginal art and culture comes together in the annual ‘Desert Mob’ celebrations presented by Araluen Arts Centre in partnership with Desart, the peak arts body supporting Central Australian Aboriginal Arts and Crafts centres. Each year the much-loved ‘Desert Mob’ program delivers a major exhibition, symposium and art market to audiences in the Northern Territory.

In 2020 the ‘Desert Mob’ festivities have taken a leap into the digital world with new virtual experiences in addition to the physical in-gallery presentation of the ‘Desert Mob’ exhibition at Araluen Arts Centre, Mparntwe (Alice Springs).

Rahel Kngwarria Ungwanaka, Artwa tharrala urrknga mpaaritjaarta, 2020, terracotta and ceramic underglazes, 38 x 29cm. Hermannsburg Potters. Acquired by the Araluen Arts Centre

The exhibition opened online for digital viewers at 9am this morning ahead of Araluen Arts Centre opening its doors to the public at 1pm. The in-gallery exhibition is on show until 25 October, and will be in keeping with COVID-safe protocols. All artworks are for sale and a buyers guide detailing the purchase process is available here.

The ‘Desert Mob’ exhibition brings important stories of Aboriginal knowledge, culture and Country into the public sphere in a riot of colour, meticulous detail and masterful creation. In the mix of 169 traditional and contemporary Aboriginal artworks is a magnificent selection of paintings, soft sculptures, works in wood and bone, stoneware vessels and hand-painted terracotta pots, as well as animal sculptures made from found objects and a whole lot more. The showcase presents the work of 177 emerging and established artists from across 27 Desart-member art centres located in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Beryl Jimmy, Nyangatja Watarru, 2020, acrylic on linen, 177 x 196.5cm. Tjungu Palya

The ‘Desert Mob Symposium’ consists of eleven projects, presentations and artist talks and a look into the inspiring stories behind the ‘Desart Photography Prize’, and the acceptance interview with the overall winner, Manjal Jampijinpa/Liam Alberts.

On this platform viewers can immerse themselves in the diverse stories and proud achievements of Aboriginal artists from five art centres including Ikuntji Artists, Hermannsburg Potters, Papunya Tjupi Art, Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre and Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre.

Beginning with the stories and songs of senior women artists of the Hermannsburg Potters, who are also members of the Ntaria Ladies Choir and who come together with the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir for the opening of the Desert Mob exhibition and Symposium each year.

Judith Inkamala from Hermannsburg Potters at the Desert Mob 2019 Artist Preview with her work Desert Choir. Photograph: Oliver Eclipse. Courtesy the artist and Araluen Arts Centre, Mparntwe (Alice Springs)

Followed by Marisa Maher, emerging curator and assistant manager of Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre who shares her experiences of curating exhibitions of work from the Hermannsburg School style of watercolour painting, which follows the extraordinary painting traditions of renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. While artists Selma Coulthard, Vanessa Inkamala, Clara Inkamala and Mervyn Rubuntja share insight about their exhibition of works titled ‘Homeless on my Homeland’ for NIRIN the 22nd Sydney Biennale.

To name just a few more there are video presentations of ‘Papunya Tjupi Arts Women’s Painting Stories’ of water and dreaming, and ‘Papunya Tjupi Arts Men’s Painting Stories’. The ‘Tjupi Old Car Tjukurrpa’ film explores the stories painted on a broken-down Ford Falcon from the 1970s that sits beside the ancestral dreaming site Tjupi Puli. The embellished Ford was a major highlight in the 2019 exhibition ‘Tjupi Puli (Honey Ant Mountain)’ at Papunya Tjupi Art Gallery. Each of the Symposium’s short films are available on the Desart website and on YouTube.

From Saturday 12 to 19 September the inaugural online Desert Mob MarketPlace will entice viewers with a spectacular array of artworks for sale by artists from 32 art centres. The new online MarketPlace offers greater opportunity for Desert Mob artists to showcase their work to a wider audience and is a way for buyers to directly support the artists and their communities. All of the art centres involved in ‘Desert Mob’ are community-based enterprises, owned and managed by Aboriginal people in their communities, and which provide economic, social and cultural benefits. New works will be added to the online platform daily.

Desert Mob 2020 is a statement of the resilience of Aboriginal artists and their communities, in the face of the challenges and vulnerabilities facing them in COVID-19 times,” shares Director of Araluen Arts Centre, Felicity Green.

Visit the Araluen Arts Centre website for more information.