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Tarnanthi Art Fair mixes traditional and contemporary

Rachel Stringfellow -

After a year of uncertainty the Tarnanthi Art Fair in South Australia is showcasing an extraordinary selection of curated pieces from established, next generation and emerging artists from around the country.

Presented in partnership with premier Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre, Lot Fourteen, the Tarnanthi Art Fair will include an array of paintings, carvings, weavings, jewellery, clothing, textiles and even homewares available for purchase.

Emerging artist Sonya Rankine, a proud Ngarrindjeri, Narungga, Ngadjuri woman from South Australia, shared insight into her weaving practice and how it all started some 30 years ago.

"My weaving is based on this tradition of Ngarrindjeri techniques, [although] the weaves that I've put in are not a traditional weave," she said.

"I've incorporated multiple weaving methods, so they're quite different pieces to what you normally would associate Aboriginal basket weaving with.

"It's a bit outside of the box, but still trying to connect to cultural elements.

"Ngarrindjeri people are very strong, and weaving is a part of everything so for me it's about being connected to culture and it's also about maintaining cultural practices and passing it on.

"It's a contemporary concept of what weaving isâ€"a bit of a modern twist on it but then I do more the more traditional [style]."

"Because I live on Narungga Country in Moonta Bay, I don't live have access to traditional reeds from the Coorong. For me it was about using the materials that I was able to source locally and that I could collect naturally. Like off the side of the road or from my backyard."

Rankine recounted how her passion for weaving all started with a weaving workshop led by acclaimed Ngarrindjeri weaver Aunty Ellen Trevorrow.

"I just sat down with her about 25-30 years ago ... I just felt so connected."

From then on Rankine has taken up every opportunity to further her weaving skills and strengthen her cultural connection through community events.

"Why would I pass up an opportunity to weave with my Aunty? To spend time ... And being able to pass that on to my girls has been really important," Rankine said.

Artist Sonya Rankine. Photo supplied.

Tarnanthi Artistic Director and proud Barkandji artist Nici Cumpston said the Art Fair is "an important part of Tarnanthi".

"Not only is it an opportunity for visitors to learn more about culture and stories that are embedded in works of art from across the country but visitors can take these stories home and be reminded every day of the deep history that our nation holds," Cumpston said.

All profits from the Art Fair will go back to the artists and their communities.

"Art production is a vital source of income in remote communitiesâ€"income that supports economic empowerment and cultural resilience," said AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM.

Audiences will be treated to an insider's look of the artworks, with video portraits explaining artists' processes; from motivations to their traditions.

Tarnanthi Art Fair is on December 4-6 at Lot Fourteen in North Terrace, Adelaide.

By Rachel Stringfellow

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