Athena Nangala Granites, Napaljarri-Warnu Jukurrpa and Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Star or Seven Sisters Dreaming)
Acrylic on Linen
“I learnt to paint by watching my mother, my sisters and my grandmother paint.” Athena Nangala Granites was born in 1994 in Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community 290 km from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. She has lived most of her life in Yuendumu, attending the local school and graduating from Senior Girls Upper School in 2009. Since leaving school she has gained work experience working in the office at Mt Theo, a program that provides comprehensive training in youth development and leadership. She has also married Sebastian Jupurrurla Wilson and they have one son, “little Henry Peterson Wilson”. Athena enjoys being Mum to little Henry. Although young, Athena comes from a long line of artists. She is the daughter of Geraldine Napangardi Granites and the grand-daughter of Alma Nungarrayi Granites (Deceased), both well-known artists. She is also the great grand-daughter of Paddy Japaljarri Sims (Deceased) one of the founding artists of Warlukurlangu Artists. Athena has been painting since 2010. She paints Jukurrpa from her father’s side (Ngapa Jukurrpa – Water Dreaming) and her mother’s side (Ngalyipi Jukurrpa – Snake Vine Dreaming and Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa – Seven Sisters Dreaming), stories which relate directly to her land, its features and the plants and animals that inhabit it. Athena uses an unrestricted palette to develop a modern interpretation of her traditional culture. When Athena is not painting and when the rain comes and it is cooler she likes to go hunting with her family for Honey Ants, Bush Banana, Goanna and Kangaroo.
The Napaljarri-Warnu Jukurrpa (Seven Sisters Dreaming) depicts the story of the seven ancestral Napaljarri sisters who are found in the night sky today in the cluster of seven stars in the constellation Taurus, more commonly known as the Pleiades. The Pleiades are seven women of the Napaljarri skin group and are often depicted in paintings of this Jukurrpa carrying the Jampijinpa man ‘wardilyka’ (the bush turkey [Ardeotis australias]) who is in love with the Napaljarri-warnu and who represents the Orion’s Belt cluster of stars. Jukurra-jukurra, the morning star, is a Jakamarra man who is also in love with the seven Napaljarri sisters and is often shown chasing them across the night sky. In a final attempt to escape from the Jakamarra the Napaljarri-warnu turned themselves into fire and ascended to the heavens to become stars. The custodians of the Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa are Japaljarri/Jungarrayi men and Napaljarri/Nungarrayi women. Some parts of the Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa are closely associated with men’s sacred ceremonies of a very secretive nature.
Yanjirlpirri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming) tells of the journey of Japaljarri and Jungarrayi men who travelled from Kurlurngalinypa (near Lajamanu) to Yanjirlypirri (west of Yuendumu) and then on to Lake Mackay on the West Australian border. Along the way they performed ‘kurdiji’ (initiation ceremonies) for young men. Women also danced for the ‘kurdiji’. The site depicted in this canvas is Yanjirlypiri (star) where there is a low hill and a water soakage. The importance of this place cannot be overemphasized as young boys are brought here to be initiated from as far as Pitjanjatjara country to the south and Lajamanu to the north.