Celebrating Art in the Desart

Western Arrernte choir. Photo by Katherine Giles

Arts Law’s Acting CEO Katherine Giles and Director of AITB Legal Donna Robinson attended Desert Mob in Alice Springs from 7-9 September. Desert Mob is run by the Desart and is a mix of events including an exhibition, the Desert Mob Symposium, a marketplace, demonstrations and artist studio and art centre visits and workshops. Opening night enabled us to take a first look at the beautiful Desert Mob exhibition at Araluen Arts Centre (which runs until 22 October 1013) with works from many of the art centres in Desart’s membership. Desart is the peak body for 38 Central Australian Aboriginal art centres in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. 

The Desert Mob Symposium was a lovely and inspiring mixture of talks by many different art centres about projects they’re working on including the beautiful and striking paintings by the Many Hands Iltta Tjarra artists on road signs and their opposition to mining on their Country; to the artists from Warlayirti art centre in Balgo going on Country during the COVID lockdown, some visiting Country they hadn’t been to in their lives or not since their childhood. They travelled 3,000 kms over the course of the month long trip often over unmarked roads. Stories such as these were accompanied by films about the motivations and experiences of the artists.

The Desert Mob Symposium also featured fabulous animations from art centres such as the Spinifex Arts Project which has set up a digital off-shoot Milpa Tjuntjuntjara. We saw The Tjuntjuntjara Nya Cooking Show/Mai Wiru Palanya cooking show animation, and the Boulder Camp Movie. The Symposium ended with the Ewyenper Atwatye (Hidden Valley) artists of Tangentyere Artists and Amanda Hayman from Magpie Goose discussing their fashion collaboration and wearable art project, and a fashion parade featuring the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists Cultural Couture fashion parade – direct from the Larapinta Town Camp to the Desert Mob Symposium runway.

On Saturday, the fabulous Desert Mob Marketplace was held on the Araluen Cultural Precinct with many art centres selling remarkable art works with something for everyone and plenty of T-shirts and totes. The marketplace offers Desert Mob attendees and Alice Springs locals the opportunity to purchase artworks, ceramics, textiles and other products directly from art centres and the artists who created them.