ABOUT THE ARTIST
Yaritji Heffernan is a Housing Choices South Australia resident who resides in Adelaide. Born on Mulga Park Station, near Ernabella, Yaritji describes herself as a “bush baby”. She attended the Ernabella Mission school with many of the women who now paint in Adelaide. Yaritji’s parents were both Pitjantjatjara – her father was from Angkatja and her mother was from Umutju. Yaritji married an Arrente man near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and can speak a little Arrente and Amatyerre, as well as Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjara. Yaritji is a skilled artist and first learned to paint ‘walka wiru’ design- based works in the Ernabella craft room in the 1970s. Yaritji’s artistic skills are not limited to painting, she makes batik silks, tapestries, hooked floor rugs, jewellery, and ceramics. As a young woman, her artwork won her 1st and 2nd prizes at the Alice Springs Show. More recently, through the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytatjara (NPY) Women’s Council, Yaritji learned to weave tjanpi (baskets), mukata (beanies) and hand paint seed necklaces. She has also facilitated art workshops in both Darwin and Adelaide. Yaritji is among a small remaining group of the older generation of Anangu Elders. She believes that a very important responsibility has been bestowed upon her: to teach the learnings she received from Grandmothers and Mothers to all the children and grandchildren. Yaritji says “the women through my history have been teachers and I am also a teacher. Family and home are about learning – learning what the bush is and knowing about bush tucker – it’s also about the Anangu way and white fella way coming together and making sure we are united. For home and community to be good and strong, it is important to continue to teach the children. This is family and home to me.”
Through the medium of art, Yaritji shares her life learnings and experiences. Her art often reflects themes of family life - and how the combination of social inclusion and connection to a safe place can be considered as home. It is our privilege to have the opportunity to visualise culture and connection to Country, through Yaritji’s eyes. She describes her painting process as coming from the heart and body, and this is reflected in her desire to teach us – using the narrative of art for our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan.
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