Saltbush Country

Regional Tarnanthi
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About

Like the saltbush that grows in arid country, independent First Nations artists have to be hardy and resilient to work in regional South Australia. And like the saltbush, they can thrive when conditions improve.

Saltbush Country provides a rare opportunity to experience the works and worldviews of Aboriginal artists working independently across regional South Australia. Their works, curated by Tarnanthi Regional Curator Marika Davies, are the result of a series of community workshops, mentoring and professional development opportunities catering for prominent regional artists and supported by Tarnanthi and Country Arts SA.

In this exhibition, seven diverse artists tell stories of their culture, community and connection to Country. Often personal and occasionally raw, their work reflects the world as seen through their eyes while expressing their culture, language and community – a contemporary articulation of Aboriginal life in regional South Australia.

Artists: Josephine Lennon, Marli Macumba, Juanella McKenzie, Deanna Newchurch, Lynette Newchurch, Sandra Saunders, Heather Shearer

Image by: Sam Roberts

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Meet the Artists

Josephine Lennon

Josephine is a Mirning and Antikirinjara artist born in Port Augusta, South Australia, living in Ceduna with her family. As a self-taught artist, Lennon is inspired by traditions passed down by family members. Working with acrylic paints on canvas, Lennon’s unique style includes the careful application of fine lines and dots to depict the undulating and changing land formations of her Country and the landscapes that surround her. In addition to painting, Lennon enjoys applying acrylic paint to different materials such as wooden board and ceramics.

Lennon has won numerous awards, including the prestigious 2016 Don Dunstan Art Prize presented as part of the Our Mob Aboriginal Art Exhibition at the Adelaide Festival Centre. In 2019 she was awarded runner-up in both the Malka Art Prize at the Yarta Purtli Gallery in Port Augusta and the Port Lincoln Art Prize.

Marli Macumba

Born in Alice Springs, Marli Macumba is from Iwantja (Indulkana) on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in northern South Australia, and is descended from Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, Arrernte, Gurindji People. Currently living and working in Port Augusta, Macumba works across the disciplines of painting, weaving and fibre art.

Painting in a bright and vibrant style, Macumba draws upon traditional storytelling practices to create new ways of sharing cultural knowledge. Her skills have been passed on through Tjukurpa, the Law and way of life governing her Country. Her work often depicts themes of family, imagination, stories of Country and elements of nature, including imagery of the desert flowers that she grew up with.

Macumba has a strong history of community leadership and socially engaged practice, including through work at Kokotha Aboriginal Corporation and as a member of the Aboriginal Working Group at Port Augusta City Council. In 2019 Macumba was awarded the Port Augusta NAIDOC Artist of the Year. Macumba’s exhibition history includes solo exhibitions MILYIKA at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery (2021) and the self-titled Marli Milyika Macumba at Hahndorf Academy (2022), and group exhibitions including Drifting Sands as part of the 2021 Tarnanthi Festival.

Juanella McKenzie

Juanella McKenzie is an Adnyamathanha, Luritja and Lower Southern Arrernte artist living and working in Port Augusta. McKenzie has a multidisciplinary practice working across mediums of weaving, painting, sculpture and installation where she combines ancient and modern practices to tell the stories of her people. McKenzie spent much of her childhood on Country, where she learnt cultural practices from her Elders, which she now passes onto her children.

In 2020 McKenzie was the recipient of the Country Arts SA Breaking Ground Award which culminated in her major solo exhibition Ngatchu Yarta – My Country at Light Square Gallery the following year. In 2021 she was selected as a finalist for the Ramsay Art Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia and then in 2022 the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) where she won the People’s Choice category. McKenzie is the winner of the 2020 Malka Art Prize’s Marvin McKenzie Senior Award. Her work is held in private and public collections nationally and internationally.

Deanna Newchurch

Deanna Newchurch is a Narungga artist living and working in Point Pearce on the Yorke Peninsula. Newchurch’s practice is inspired by her deep knowledge of Narungga Country, where as a child she learnt how to survey the land for remains of significant cultural sights and artefacts. Making maireener-shell necklaces and learning the practice of possum and wallaby-skin cloaks alongside her sister Lynette, Newchurch seeks to preserve and restore traditional making practices, strengthen cultural identity and bring to life Narungga creation stories.

Newchurch is an active member of the Point Pearce Narrunga community. From 2020 – 2022 Newchurch was a key contributor to Wild Dog, a cultural maintenance and revival project led by Jacob Boehme and produced by Country Arts SA and Insite Arts and was the costume consultant on the Wild Dog Dreaming film. In 2023 Newchurch and her sister Lynette undertook a mentorship with highly respected Gunditjmara Keerray Wooroong artist and knowledge holder Aunty Vicki Couzens to learn the practice of making possum skin cloaks.

Lynette Newchurch

Lynette Newchurch is a Narungga artist living and working in Port Victoria on the Yorke Peninsula. Best known for her maireener-shell necklace making, Newchurch’s artistic practice includes time spent collecting shells from beaches on Country around her home on the Yorke Peninsula. Alongside her sister Deanna, Newchurch seeks to preserve and restore traditional making practices, strengthen cultural identity and bring to life Narungga creation stories.

From 2020 – 2022 Newchurch was a key contributor to Wild Dog, a cultural maintenance and revival project led by Jacob Boehme and produced by Country Arts SA and Insite Arts. This year Newchurch worked with South Australian jeweller Lauren Simeoni to learn and strengthen her technical jewellery-making skills. Most recently she undertook a mentorship with highly respected Gunditjmara Keerray Wooroong artist and knowledge holder Aunty Vicki Couzens alongside her sister Deanna to learn the practice of making possum skin cloaks.

Sandra Saunders

Sandra Saunders is a Ngarrindjeri and Buandig artist living and working in Wangary on the Eyre Peninsula. Saunders has a background in community organising and activism for Aboriginal rights and was a vocal leader of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge protests. Working primarily in the medium of painting, Saunders’ work is politically engaged, commenting on themes of colonialism, climate change, land rights and social justice.

Saunders has an extensive exhibiting history which began through her participation in the Our Mob exhibitions at the Adelaide Festival Centre. Her recent exhibition history includes the group shows Drifting Sands at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery as part of the 2021 Tarnanthi Festival and Country Arts SA’s VIETNAM: ONE IN, ALL IN at Tandanya (2019), as well as her 2017 solo exhibition They Came Like a Tsunami at ACE Gallery.

In 2019 Saunders was awarded a Guildhouse Catapult mentorship to work with Dr Jess Wallace which resulted in a presentation outcome at the Art Gallery of South Australia. In 2022 she was one of four First Nations artists selected by the National Gallery of Australia to design a custom pair of sneakers for the ‘walk in their shoes’ initiative offered in collaboration with Volley.

Heather Shearer

Born as ‘Tanya Fly’ in Alice Springs, Heather Shearer is an Arrernte artist living and working in Port Augusta. As a member of the Stolen Generations much of Shearer’s work explores her history and identity, addressing themes of home, belonging, reconciliation and connection to culture. Working across the disciplines of painting and textiles she draws upon imagery from her Arrernte heritage from Ntaria (Hermannsburg).

Shearer is a strong advocate for Aboriginal rights and cultural protection and has held roles with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and Aboriginal Child Care Agency, as well as sitting on boards and committees within South Australia and nationally, including the Country Arts SA First Nations Advisory Committee and National Sorry Day Committee.

In 2022 Shearer was awarded a Guildhouse Catapult mentorship to work with renowned textiles artist Dr Sera Waters to learn new and advanced embroidery techniques. In 2012 she was nominated for a National DEADLY award. Shearer has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally including the group exhibitions Four Circles/Souring Vision at Tandanya in 1998 and Drifting Sands at Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery as part of the 2021 Tarnanthi Festival, as well as a major international solo exhibition Four Directions of Social Justice at Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University (2016, Ireland UK).

Saltbush Country is presented as a partnership between Country Arts SA and the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of Tarnanthi. This exhibition is supported by Tarnanthi Principal Partner BHP.

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