Words by Songlines Gallery and Ikuntji Artists
Images by Tobias Titz and Ikuntji Artists
In 2018 Ikuntji Artists collaborated with photographer Tobias Titz to create a unique body of artworks featuring polaroid portraits by Tobias Titz accompanied by etchings created by Ikuntji artists.
The diversity of styles in these works is striking, yet the body of work comes together as a powerful expression of the people, history and the rich culture of the art centre and the Haasts Bluff community. The images are inspired by Tobias Titz’s long term ‘Polaroid project’ which began in 1998, one strand of which combines his instantaneous portraits of First Nations Australians with etchings made by them into the wet emulsion of the large format Polaroid negative. “Nganana Tjungu – this is us” is part of Ikuntji Artists ‘History Project’ that began in 2017. It was initiated by the Board of Ikuntji Artists as a way of re-telling the history of Ikuntji from within, from the perspective of its owners. Ikuntji Artists was the first Indigenous art centre in the Western Desert established by women. It was inclusive of all community members, however, had a focus on supporting women. The History project is about the unheard voices of the Western Desert art movement, aiming at documenting and celebrating the life stories and histories of Ikuntji Artists and the art movement through multimedia and bilingual texts.
Today Ikuntji Artists has eight key artists, plus a number of young new and emerging artists engaging with the art centre. Succession planning is critical as three key elder artists passed away in the last 18 months. Creating opportunities to work with new media and express self and culture in new ways is enriching and engaging for our members, who found working with these mediums was an intriguing and valuable experience. Established artists such as Eunice Napanangka Jack, have worked previously with etching and works on paper, however, for many it was an entirely new experience.
A lot of stories are still being recounted of long journeys of people from various language groups, who travelled from rockholes and waterholes to caves and mountains finally arriving at Haasts Bluff. The locals, Luritja people of Haasts Bluff, were already here. Thus Haasts Bluff is a community rich of diversity in language and culture.
The artists draw their inspiration from their personal ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). They interpret the ancestral stories by using traditional symbols, icons and motifs. The artistic repertoire of Ikuntji Artists is diverse and includes for example: naive as well as highly abstract paintings told by each artist in their personal signature style. Throughout the 29 years of its existence the art movement in Ikuntji has flourished and constantly left its mark in the fine art world. At the same time the art centre has been the cultural hub of the community, maintaining, reinforcing and reinvigorating cultural practices through art-making.
Today Ikuntji Artists has eight key artists, who exhibit in Australia and internationally. They are represented in major collections across the globe. Now working in mediums of painting, edition prints, photography, textile design, jewellery and fashion, Ikuntji artists continue to push the boundaries with their innovative and unique art.
Tobias is an acclaimed award-winning photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Tobias studied at the Staatliche Fachakademie für Photodesign, Munich. His work has been exhibited in the USA, UK Australia and China.
Over the last 15 years Tobias has collaborated with Indigenous communities in the Pilbara, Arnhem Land, Tiwi Islands, and South and Central Australia creating photographic artworks. Works created during these cross-cultural artistic interactions and collaborations are now held in the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Library, Canberra and the Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida, USA.
Tobias’ photographs are included in the Polaroid Collection USA, the Moran Foundation Australia and numerous private collections in Australia, Europe and the USA.
Tobias won the HeadOn Photography Prize 2008, the Doug Moran Contemporary Photography Prize 2012 and the Art Handler Award at the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017. He lectures in Photography at Monash University, Victoria.
Jeannie Wareenie Ross