Ara Irititja Ernabella-la – Old Days in Ernabella

acrylic on linen
142.2 x 116 cm
Sims Dickson Collection, NSW
© The artist and Ernabella Arts

In this painting Niningka links the past and present, showing when Anangu (people) lived in a wiltja (shelter) in family groups on the Mission, and senior Pitjantjatjara Law man and artist Kunmanara (Dickie) Minyintiri tended the Mission’s flock of sheep.

Nura explains the old days in Ernabella:

Before, we were always nikidi (naked) and when the whitefella came we started to wear clothes and the community shared a truck that we all went bush in. We started going to church and singing gospel songs. Later more people got Toyotas and we could go hunting and travel to other places to visit family. It was a good time.

niningka lewis_ernabella.jpg

Niningka Lewis

Born: 1945 North of Areyonga NT
Pitjantjatjara language group
Art Centre: Ernabella Arts, Pukatja

Niningka Lewis is a skilled painter, tjanpi weaver and punu carver. She was born in the bush north of Areyonga while her parents were travelling. Growing up at the Ernabella Mission, she travelled often with her family to places such as Angus Downs, Curtin Springs and Imanpa.

After school Niningka worked at the Ernabella Mission craft room where she learned to spin sheep's wool, later learning make batiks and coiled baskets at the art centre in Kalka.

Niningka made the first life-sized grass figure for the Tjanpi Manguri Weaving exhibition in 2000 that anticipated the Tjanpi Desert Weavers’ move into figurative sculpture-making. This saw them win the NATSIAAs with their tjanpi Toyota sculpture.

Niningka is highly regarded for her figurative sculptures and also her quirky paintings - a medium she has been concentrating on since 2009.