Rene Kulitja - Seven Sisters - Cat No X2041-19
Artist: Rene Kulitja
Title: Kungarankalpa - The Seven Sisters
Cat No: X2041-19
Size: 79 x 29 cm
Acrylic on linen.
This painting depicts the Tjukurpa, the law and stories of Ancestors. Anangu (Central and Western Desert Aboriginal people) have responsibility for the protection and teaching of different Tjukurpa and there are stick protocols for the imparting of knowledge. The dotting technique has evolved with the need to adapt sacred expressions of Tjukurpa for public viewing and as a depiction of the desert landscape.
Kungkarangkalpa is the Tjukurpa of the Seven Sisters, about a group of women being pursued by a cunning man called Nyiru who attempts to lure them into marriage with him. He disguises himself in countless ways to trick the sisters and is sometimes is also invisible in paintings.
In their escape the sisters travelled through a vast amount of Australia. They stopped to camp, build shelter and hunt for food thus forming many features of the landscape and embedding the knowledge of survival in it. Eventually they fled into the sky where they became the constellation known as the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Nyiru still follows them ceaselessly across the night sky as one of the bright stars in the constellation of Orion.
Rene was born in 1958, in Ernabella, South Australia. Her family are Pitjantjatjara people, and her Pitjantjatjara name is Wanuny. She grew up in northern South Australia, and then moved to Docker River after she got married. When Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park was handed back to traditional owners in 1985, the couple moved to Muṯitjulu to work in tourism. Rene became involved in arts and crafts at the women's centre shortly after. She was a founding director of Walkatjara Art. During the mid-1990s, Kulitja worked with other women artists on the interior design of the park's cultural centre. She also took a course on glasswork techniques at the University of South Australia, along with three other women. After a successful exhibition of work made using these new skills, Kulitja and the other women got a commission from the Ayers Rock Resort at Yulara for a panel of glass decorated with traditional designs. In 2000, Kulitja was one of over 300 Aboriginal women from Central Australia to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. In 2002, Kulitja worked with Balarinji Studio in Sydney to design the outside surface of Qantas Boeing 737. The design she painted was of Uluṟu. It was based on traditional designs and sacred Dreaming legends. The fleet was launched on 14 February 2002, with a special ceremony performed by singers and dancers from Muṯitjulu. The word (y)ananyi means "to go" or "to travel" in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara. It was the third Qantas aircraft to be painted in an Aboriginal design. Kulitja did something similar again in 2010, when a semi-trailer truck was decorated with another of her designs as part of a national roadshow by Maṟuku Arts. Kulitja has held an important position within her community for several years. She has been a member of both the Muṯitjulu Community Council and the Board of Management of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. In 2006, she became the chairperson of Maṟuku Arts. In October 2007, she was elected for a two-year term as a director on the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council. Rene's husband, Richard Kulitja, worked in the tourist industry for many years. In 2004, he accepted an international tourism award in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Aṉangu Tours. Several members of their family have been badly affected by petrol sniffing, which is a widespread problem amongst Aboriginal communities in central Australia. Their son was addicted to sniffing, and was reported to be getting help in 2006. Rene's two brothers also have permanent brain damage caused by their past addictions to the substance. Rene has spoken strongly about addressing the issue within the community. Kulitja works with a range of media, including paint, glass, ceramics and tjanpi (desert grass). She makes paintings, woven baskets, and glass and ceramic sculptures. An example of her glass work is shown in the National Gallery of Australia. It is a coolamon made of glass (rather than the traditional wood), and has been exhibited in several Australian galleries. She is also known for making traditional-style jewellery using modern techniques and media. Some of her jewellery work was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show when Winfrey visited Uluṟu in December 2010. Kulitja's work has been shown in many exhibitions across Australia. It has also been exhibited in Belgium and Japan.