AGSA’s Tarnanthi Art Festival kicks off October program

Finding a home at AGSA and across SA, the Tarnanthi Festival celebrates the rich diversity, culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Feature credit: Walmajarri artist John Prince Siddom

The Art Gallery of South Australia has officially opened the highly-anticipated Tarnanthi Festival of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, set to feature work from over 1400 artists until January 2022.

Launching with a powerful live-streamed performance by award-winning electronic duo Electric Fields with Antara singers and Tjarutka Dance and Theatre Collective, the festival kicked off Friday.

Finding a home on the lower level of AGSA and across Adelaide and regional SA, the festival celebrates the rich diversity, culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and which contributes to the rich fabric of Australian culture.

Visitors of AGSA’s exhibition are greeted by the psychedelic-like work of Walmajarri artist John Prince Siddon, whose mural sets the scene for the unfolding array of mediums including photography, weaving and sculpture to painting, fashion, film and immersive installations.

From the heart of Tarnanthi at AGSA, the festival stretches across South Australia, with partner venues presenting more than 60 exhibitions and events from Port Augusta to McLaren Value.

In a year full of firsts, Tarnanthi will also be online for the 2021 festival, allowing Australian and global audiences the chance to view and purchase pieces online, taking the power of Tarnanthi to individuals no matter where they are.

Since 2015, more than $4 million of art has been sold at the Tarnanthi Festival, with the entirety of the proceeds going directly to the artists and their community-run art centres.

The festival Artistic Director Nici Cumpston says it is an honour to work with Tarnanthi’s featuring artists and present their stories this year.

“Storytelling lies at the heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists’ work and Tarnanthi provides us with an occasion to listen,” says Cumpston.

“If we give them our fullest attention, they can transport us across time and country, into different ways of seeing and understanding.”

Senior Kaurna man Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien says, “The Tarnanthi festival is our opportunity to experience the wonders of culture in many spaces and places.”

“It is through our observing eyes, our listening and inquiring ears, and our doing bodies, we will emerge as a part of the Tarnanthi festival as one and rise together.”

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport says the festival and exhibition grants South Australians the chance to experience the potency and vitality of culture intertwined throughout the 60 projects across the state.

“Tarnanthi once again demonstrates itself to be a charged and porous space for contemporary expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art,” says Devenport.

Tarnanthi in 2021 will be presented as part of the states Bloom Spring Campaign, a new initiative by the State government and South Australian Tourism Commission.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says he is pleased SA is home to the inspiring festival.

“At a time when travel opportunities have been limited, Tarnanthi carries us far away – at home. It takes us into the cultural richness of the many nations of our nation.”

For full program details, visit AGSA’s Tarnanthi website. You can watch a virtual tour of the Elder Wing here.

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