The Artists of Ampilatwatja
The Artists of Ampilatwatja (pronounced 'um-bludder-watch') community was established in 1999 near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The work produced by the artists is recognisably distinct from other Aboriginal artistic communities, due to the application of fine dots and the often bright and child-like figurative depiction of the land.
Most of the artists paint Arreth, which translates to ‘strong bush medicine’, demonstrating a deep connection to country. A veritable source of life, the land has provided and sustained Alyawarr people for generations, as every plant and animal has a vital role to play within the ecological system. The paintings pay homage to the significance and use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into their community. Yet underneath the iridescent surfaces, there is an underlying sense that there is more to these landscapes than meets the eye. In keeping with the religious laws, the artists reveal only a small amount of knowledge to the uninitiated. The esoteric information that is held sacred to these artists and their people is concealed from the public and layered underneath the common visual narrative, masked by the delicate layered dots of the painting. The many levels of interpretation permit artists to present their art to an often culturally untutored public without compromising its religious nature. Artists talk of two broad levels of interpretation, the “inside” stories which are restricted to those of the appropriate ritual standing, and the “outside” stories which are open to all.
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