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Kungkarangkalpa – Seven Sisters, 2020, has been commemorated in a new collectable stamp set released by Australia Post

A highlight of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection, Nyunmiti Burton’s monumental painting Kungkarangkalpa – Seven Sisters, 2020, has been commemorated in a new collectable stamp set released by Australia Post. The work was acquired for the AGSA Foundation 20th Anniversary Collectors Club in 2020, and appeared in AGSA’s 2021 Tarnanthi Festival, acclaimed as the nation’s leading First Nations art festival.

Nyunmiti Burton commented, ‘The spirit of our ancestors watches over us as we celebrate our culture and would be proud of my achievement.’

AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM says, ‘This is a wonderful achievement for Nyunmiti Burton, her work featured on the stamp can now be enjoyed by thousands across the country. It reinforces the impactful work that AGSA undertakes through Tarnanthi – a national showcase for the artistic excellence, creative diversity, innovation and cultural depth of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.’

The stamp set, titled Sky Country: The Seven Sisters, features works by three women artists: Burton, Angilyiya Mitchell and May Chapman. The dramatic narrative of Kungkarangkalpa, or the story of the Seven Sisters, is an important and powerful ancestral story which can be tracked across the continent from the north of Western Australia all the way to the east coast. It tells of seven sisters who were chased across sky and earth by the lascivious man Wati Nyiru, and teaches the importance of female leadership and women supporting other women. The story is also recognisable in the West as the story of the Pleiades, Atlas’s daughters who fled to the heavens to escape Orion.

The stamp set depicts the Seven Sisters story from the perspectives of women from three lands: Martu Country in the Great Sandy Desert (Chapman), Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Great Victoria Desert (Mitchell) and the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the north-west of South Australia (Burton).

Burton’s work tells how the oldest sister protected the others, making sure no-one was left behind. Through her painting, the celestial adventure of the sisters escaping Wati Nyiru is made visible – dynamic tracts of red, yellow, orange and lilac paint skip across the surface, imitating the movement of the sisters across the night sky and onto Country.

‘This was the oldest sister’s story and it is the story of all Aboriginal women leaders in Australia today. The women stayed together and the oldest sister ran with the young women escaping the dangers – she showed them how to escape by running into the night sky,’ said Burton.

Tarnanthi’s Artistic Director, Barkandji curator Nici Cumpston OAM, says, ‘Nyunmiti Burton is an important leader in her Aṉangu community, and her large-scale canvases depict her Country and Tjukurpa in bold swathes of colour. What an incredible gift to the public for her artwork and stories to be shared across the country and the world through this stamp.’

Burton is also featured in Kungka Kunpu (Strong Women) as part of AGSA’s acclaimed Tarnanthi on Tour program. Cumpston says, ‘This regional touring exhibition reflects the adaptive genius, energy and dynamism of Aṉangu culture and recognises the APY art movement as a vital source of contemporary art production in Australia today.’ The exhibition, presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia with Principal Partner BHP and support from the Australian Government through its Visions of Australia program, is currently on at Bunjil Place Gallery, Narre Warren in Melbourne until 21 July.

Nyunmiti Burton was born in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in 1960 and grew up in Pukatja (Ernabella). In the 1970s she was introduced to batik by Aṉangu women at Ernabella Arts who had honed their batik skills in Asia. In 1980, she married and moved to Amata, where she began her career as an educator. Today she lives and works in Adelaide at the APY Art Centre Collective, and her primary platform for teaching is through her painting. She holds leadership roles as a director of the APY Art Centre Collective, the APY Council and the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council.

Nyunmiti Burton’s Kungkarangkalpa – Seven Sisters, 2020, can be viewed at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Gallery 7 as part ofCountry, our mother a display of paintings by artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

Tarnanthi’s Artistic Director, Barkandji curator Nici Cumpston OAM, will be facilitating an artist talk with Nyunmiti Burton and Lisa Khan on Saturday 29 June at 2pm in the Kungka Kunpu (Strong Women) exhibition currently showing at Bunjil Place Gallery.

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