In the weeks leading up to the 60th we worked really hard cleaning and painting the inside and outside of the art centre. Then we put up lots of our new art and displayed lots of our work from the old days, like floor rugs, silk painted scarves, prints, walka paintings, screen-printed fabric, punu and batik. Our art centre looked really beautiful.
On the week of the celebration, many visitors arrived in Ernabella, including our dear old friend, Winifred Hilliard, who was here for the first time in 22 years. She was the art centre coordinator for 32 years from 1954 - 1986 and we were so happy to see her back at Ernabella - her home. We cried many tears of happiness and laughed a lot together as we gathered around our dear friend.
Once everyone was here, we started the speeches. SBS, ABC and PY Media were there to record the event. Everyone listened carefully to the story of our art centre – told by Alison Carroll, Tjariya Stanley, Winifred Hilliard and Hilary Furlong. Kathy Keele congratulated Ernabella Arts on behalf of the Australia Council, Maralyn Leverington (DEWHA) read Minister Garrett’s speech and Kumnarara Reid (Arts SA) read out Premier Rann’s speech. Debra also read a special message from the son of Mary Bennett, who helped us start our craft room in 1948.
We wanted to give Win something special from the art centre today to say thank you for all she did for us during her time in Ernabella, for making the big journey here for the celebration. We gave her a special ceramic platter decorated by Tjunkaya. And then we presented Certificates of Appreciation to all the artists and art-workers that have helped to make Ernabella Arts such a special place.
Once the certificates were finished, it was time for the BBQ and to get ready for inma and the concert at the special creek stage that Ngapartji Ngapartji had made. The local policemen and the young boys did the kalaya inma and young girls did the crow inma. The policemen’s wives and Melissa did the Mai Putitja inma (Bushfoods). There were two special dances that told stories that we show in our artwork - Iyukuta inma, from the Minyma Kutjara tjukurpa and Malila. After the inma, the concert started. Ernabella Anangu School Choir sang five songs, including Jeniffer Wells’ beautiful song ‘Ngura pilti’. Then the Pitjantjatjara Senior Choir joined the children on stage for two songs together, before singing a few gospel songs on their own. The Areyonga Band, Pukatja Band and the Thunderboys from Nyapari played and everyone danced into the night.
The next day was open day at the art centre. We did demonstrations of how we make our art – painting on canvas, painting gumnuts (art on a string), batik, ceramics, tjanpi (basket-making) and wool spinning. We also made damper and cooked malu wipu (kangaroo tail) for all the visitors to try. The art centre was really busy for the whole week and there were a lot of sales which is wonderful for the community. That night, the art centre hosted another BBQ and then everyone went back down to the creek stage to watch Ngapartji Ngapartji.
It was a time for seeing old friends and family that had come from far away; for meeting new people; for remembering the old days and talking about all the wonderful things happening today – like Ngapartji Ngapartji! It was an uplifting and proud time for not only the artists, but past staff and the entire community, and we will hold it in our hearts always.