Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken 206

Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Ngayuku ngura - My Country, 2013
Acrylic on linen
152.4 x 101.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/528206

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2012
Acrylic on linen
122 x 198 cm

Art code GZTJA/528585

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Further Details

Sylvia Ken has depicted the Seven Sisters Story. This is a Tjukurpa Story (Creation Story) about the constellations of Pleiades and Orion. The sisters are the constellation of Pleiades and the other star, Orion, is said to be Nyiru or Nyirunya (described as a lusty or bad man). Nyiru is forever chasing the sisters known as the Kunkarunkara women, as it is said he wants to marry the eldest sister. The seven sisters travel again and again from the sky to the earth to escape Nyiru’s unwanted attentions. They turn into their human form to escape from the persistent Nyiru, but he always finds them and they flee back to the sky.

As Nyiru is chasing the sisters, he tries to catch them by using magic to turn into the most tempting kampurarpra (bush tomatoes) for the sisters to eat and the most beautiful Ili (fig) tree for them to camp under. However, the sisters are too clever for Nyiru and outwit him as they are knowledgeable about his magic. They go hungry and run through the night rather than be caught by Nyiru.

Every now and again one of the women fell victim to his ways. It is said that he eventually captures the youngest sister, but with the help of the oldest sister, she escapes back to her sisters who are waiting for her. Eventually the sisters fly back into the sky to escape Nyiru, reforming the constellation.

(In some cases the artist will secretly depict sexual elements as Nyiru is really only after one thing - sex).

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2012
Acrylic on linen
152.5 x 198 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK430

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2011
Acrylic on linen
152.5 x 101.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK013

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken 430

Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2011
Acrylic on linen
197 x 198 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK43011

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken 097

Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2011
Acrylic on linen
152.5 x 122 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK097

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2010
Acrylic on linen
152.5 x 101.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK259

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2010
Acrylic on linen
152.5 x 101.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK094

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Seven Sisters, 2009
Acrylic on linen
122 x 101.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK229

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Kapi tjukula - rock hole, 2008
Acrylic on linen
122 x 152.5 cm
Collection: Artbank

Art code GZTJA/SK540

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Sylvia Kanytjupai Ken
Kapi tjukula - rock hole, 2008
Acrylic on linen
101.5 x 152.5 cm

Art code GZTJA/SK451

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Sylvia Ken 17

Sylvia Ken
Seven Sisters, 2014
Acrylic on linen
198 x 122 cm

Art code GZTJA/56017

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Further Details

Sylvia Ken’s work retells the epic story of the Seven Sisters who are being chased across country by an old man, Wati Nyiru. Nyiru uses his magical powers to try to trick one of the girls into becoming his wife (despite none being promised to him). Eventually the girls’ father turns them into stars and sends them up to the night sky where they become the Pleiades star cluster, and Nyiru becomes the Morning Star. The girls are forever safe. This is an important story about marriage and Law. 

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Sylvia Ken
Seven Sisters, 2014
Acrylic on linen
197 x 198 cm

Art code GZTJA/56016

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Sylvia Ken
Seven Sisters, 2014
Acrylic on linen
198 x 122 cm

Art code GZTJA/56018

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Tjala Women's Collaborative 421

Tjala Women’s Collaborative
Ken Sisters
Seven Sisters, 2013
acrylic on linen
198 x 197 cm

Art code GZTJA/TWC421

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Tjala Women’s Collaborative
Wawiriya Burton, Kunmanara Williamson, Barbara Moore, Mary Pan, Nyurpaya Kaika, Naomi Kantjuriny, Iluwanti Ken, Mona Mitakiki, Tjungkara Ken, Sylvia Ken, Marinka Tunkin, Katanari Tjillya, Paniny Mick
Nganampa Ngura - Our Country, 2013
acrylic on linen
198 x 300 cm
Provenance: Tjala Arts
Collection: Private Collection, USA

Art code GZTJA/TWC036

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Further Details

Nganampa Ngura - Our Country, 2013 brings together all of Tjala Arts’ women on one monumental, unprecedented canvas. Commissioned by the Art Gallery of South Australia for its HEARTLAND exhibition, this painting is an outpouring of the women’s belief in the essential role of Country in the lives of Anangu. Behind the indisputable bold and dazzling physical qualities of the painting lies a profound statement of connectivity: to the land, their culture and to each other.

The primacy of the individual defines Western cultures, but within Aboriginal cultures individualism is an exception. Instead, the strength of the individual comes from the health of the community and culture, both of which rely on a direct and unfettered connection to County. Hence “Country” finds its expression in infinite ways through art and life. Its repetition acts as a meditation to centre the mind, heart and soul, and to reinforce connectivity. This is evidenced in the harmonious composition achieved by thirteen women ranging in age and seniority; the individual styles are discernable, but the aesthetic values are drawn from shared cultural and communal values.

Tjala’s established and emerging artists are extensively represented in public and private collections internationally.

Publications

HEARTLAND: Contemporary Art from South Australia, Nici Cumpston & Lisa Slade, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2013.

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Tjala Women’s Collaborative
Tjunkara Ken, Sandra Ken, Marinka Tunkin, Freda Brady and Sylvia Ken
Seven Sisters, 2013
acrylic on linen
197 x 198 cm

Art code GZTJA/TWC039

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Further Details

This work was part of the Tjala Arts installation in HEARTLAND. The installation – which the curators Nici Cumpston and Lisa Slade said “occupies the centre of the exhibition” (catalogue essay, p8) – comprised the Women’s Collaborative above, a major Wawiriya Burton (subsequently acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia), a major Men’s Collaborative (subsequently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia) and two large Tjanpi installations.

The Seven Sisters story is one of great importance throughout the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. It is a story of girls on the cusp of sexual maturity, a lascivious man Wati Nyiiru intent on securing one of the girls as his wife despite it being against the Law, and the protective actions of the father who saves his daughters from certain ruin. The consequences of marrying “wrong way” are severe; after all, family relations and right to Country are inscribed in Law. A marriage according to Law is a protective measure (biologically, spiritually and geopolitically) that ensures the survival of the family group and peaceful relations with neighbouring families.

In his HEARTLAND catalogue essay, Hector Burton wrote: “Anangu who are living a long way away from their home or country feel very homesick and have a sad heart, missing that country. Anangu are strong in their health when their relationship with country and culture is strong. There is something inside us that means that we need to be on our country” (p21).

Had Wati Nyiiru succeeded, one of the girls would have been condemned to a life of sadness, banished from her family and Country. She would effectively become stateless and be at the mercy of her husband to provide for her basic needs, for her family and Country would be lost to her.

The painting’s lead artists, Tjungkara Ken and Sylvia Ken, are widely represented in public and private collections. Sandra Ken, Marinka Tunkin, and Freda Brady are emerging artists.

Publications

HEARTLAND: Contemporary Art from South Australia, Nici Cumpston & Lisa Slade, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2013.

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Sylvia Ken
Seven Sisters, 2017
acrylic on linen
101 x 91 cm

Location: Luxembourg
Art code GZTJA/SK311

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