In the Western art tradition painting has been historicised and romanticised as a solitary pursuit – a battle between the individual, usually male, and the canvas, usually upright. In the contemporary Western Desert art tradition, painting is frequently pursued collaboratively, with canvasses laid laterally on the ground in the direction of country. The Ken sisters – Tingila Yaritji Young, Maringka Tunkin, Sandra Ken, Freda Brady and Tjungkara Ken – are part of this desert art tradition, a distinct lineage formed initially by women, under the name of Minymaku Arts (meaning ‘belonging to women’), just twenty years ago in Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

By working together – sometimes simultaneously painting together on a grounded canvas, and sometimes consecutively, where one sister’s mark calls for another’s reply (resembling an ancestral call and response) – the mnemonic or memory function of painting is performed. The sisters often return to familiar and familial subjects in their collaborations – to Tjala tjukurpa (Honey Ant dreaming) and to Kungkarangkalpa tjukurpa (Seven Sisters dreaming), two stories that are their birthright and their bond.

Lisa Slade

 

Listen to the Ken Sister’s artist talk HERE