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Angkaliya Curis: Bilynya

Angkaliya Curtis, Bilynya

The Artist

According to the Short Street Gallery, Angkaliya is thought have been born around 1928 in  Mtii, South Australia. When she was small she travelled with her mother to Watarru (her mother's country). The family spent time at Ernabella Mission and cattle station properties exchanging animal skins (dingoes and rabbits) for flour and sugar. She married and lived at Ernabella where she worked in the craft room spinning wool and making rugs. In the 1960's she moved closer to her traditional homeland when the community Amata began.

Today she lives and works between Nyapari Community and cave hill. Angkaliya lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle often walking long distances in the desert where traditional knowledge of the country, it's waterholes and food supplies, are vital to survival.  She learned from her mother and grandmother the secrets of the land and acquired an intimate understanding of the environment and the ancestral creation stories associated with it.

When Angkaliya was a young girl she learned about traditional foods and their preparation from the older women around her.  She gathered foods such as ili (native fig), kampurarpa (desert raisins), tjala (honey ants), maku (witchetty grubs), ngintaka (perentie goanna), tjati (edible lizard) and anumara (edible caterpillars).  She also knew about minkulpa (native tobacco) and other plants with medicinal properties.  She gathered Irmangka-Irmankga grinding the small sticky leaf of the native eremophila and mixing it with emu fat to make a poultice for muscular aches and pains.  She learned what seed to collect to grind to a flour to make into small cakes cooked in the hot ashes from the fire.  She made wiltjas (simple dwellings - shade structures from branches), yuu (windbreaks), and carved utensils from local trees such as wana (wooden digging stick) and piti (collecting bowls).  She read the desert sands for tracks and hunted small animals.  She spun hair on a hand made spindle for ceremonial belts and manguri (woven head rings).

Art and craft are still important to Angkaliya and she maintains a prolific weaving and artifact production.  Her camp is scattered with discarded raffia and spinifex from the tjanpi baskets she makes in the evenings and during the weekends.During the week Angkaliya is a dedicated painter, she is often the first to arrive in the studio and the last to leave, maintaining a slow and rhythmic approach to building up her artworks. In recent years ANgkaliya has shifted away from the quirky figurative depictions of animals she was famous for, towards a more abstracted sense of knowledge and cultural affiniity  and act as an armature off which she  hangs beautiful tracts of colour blended together with her signature painterly marks. In later life she favours large paintings as they allow her to a grand story full of intensity and power.

These textured baskets and wooden carvings are distinctive in their unique quirkiness, a quality she also brings to her paintings. Angkaliya's paintings have a unique quality.  A scattering of animals, plants and people drawn with a finely detailed line work.  The representation of rockholes, creeks and other topographical elements are interspersed with people and animals going about their daily activities.

Billynya by Angkaliya Curtis

The work of Art

This painting depicts Angkaliya Curtis’ husband, Billynya. He is walking his camel from the mission in Ernabella to Cave Hill. There are two ngintaka munu tjilpul tjuta (perentie lizards and birds) who have come to drink from the rockhole. One wild dog has also left his prints in the sand. This is one of  a limited edition of 10 screenprints created around 2009 and formed part of the Tjungu Palya portfolio.