Kulata Tjuta (“many spears”) is an ongoing cultural maintenance project that shares the skills of spear making across generations. Senior Anangu men, including Willya Kaika Burton, Hector Burton, Ray Ken, Adrian Intjalki, David Frank, Keith Stevens, Mike Williams, Witjiti George, Taylor Cooper and Peter Mungkari have enlisted the support of the young men in their communitites, working together to craft punu kulata (wooden spears) on the the Lands. The artistic outcomes take the form of large scale, multi disciplinary installations which incorporate film, sound, and live performance. For these installations the men have collaborated with indigenous artists like Munaldjali/Nunukul composer David Page and Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones.
Kulata Tjuta started as a small project involving five men in Amata and has grown to include over 100 Anangu men across the APY Lands. To date, there have been three major artistic outcomes in partnership with Australian institutions/museums, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, The National Gallery of Australia and Monash University.
Most recently profiled in TARNANTHI at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 2017, the Kulata Tjuta Project included 550 suspended kulata (spears) in an artistic response to the nuclear weapons testing on their country at Emu Junction and Maralinga in the far north of South Australia between 1953 and 1963. Inspired by this work, the senior artists of the APY Lands now wish to install a larger volume of spears in the next iteration of the project (between 1000 - 1200) to create a whilly-whilly – a mini tornado – or what is identified in Pitjantjatjara as kupi kupi.
A kupi kupi is a large funnel shape of dust and debris that is often seen across the desert landscape.
For Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people, the weather, and in particular, the wind, holds special
cultural significance. The wind marks the passing of the most senior and significant Anangu elders.
It can be a warning to Anangu from Country that danger is approaching or it can signal the coming
of great change. Like previous iterations of this project, the spears will be suspended above punu
(wood) objects including weaponry, tools and objects that represent traditional life on the APY Lands.
Conceptually this installation will be an exploration of the ongoing impact of the western world on
traditional Anangu society and life. While Anangu experience great pride and celebration of strong
family and culture, life on the APY Lands today is often a paradoxical challenge. This iteration of the
Kulata Tjuta Project will bring hope to future generations of Anangu.
We are currently working on the Kulata Tjuta Punu Symposium; a professional development opportunity for Aboriginal carvers and artists from all over Australia. Artists will meet and share skills and techniques involved in wood crafts, carving, and weapon creation. This symposium has been supported by Australia Council of the Arts will be held at Uluru and various APY homelands in 2018.