SPINIFEX ARTS PROJECT (SPINIFEX COUNTRY)
The Spinifex Arts Project was established in 1997 as part of the Native Title documentation process. Both Native Title paintings, the Men’s Combined and the Women’s Combined, document the entire Spinifex area showing claimants birthplaces and important stories that traverse and give form to the area. These paintings were formally included in the preamble to the Native Title agreement ratified before the Federal Court in November 2000. Celebrating the success of the land claim process the Spinifex People bequeathed ten major paintings to the People of WA to be housed at the Western Australian Museum.
Many Spinifex people live at Tjuntjutjara community, which is located in Western Australia not far from the Anangu communities of Irrunytju, Warburton and Blackstone.
The Anangu people of these areas share a common history and have always moved across their country visiting relatives and sacred places. They see themselves as separate communities, but their lives are interconnected; thus Clem Rictor an Irrunytju artist helped build the road to Tjuntjutjara where his relatives live. Cyril Brown, a major Spinifex artist, is the brother of Anmanari Brown who lives and works at Irrunytju.
The country of the Spinifex people consists of vast plains of red sand, salt lakes and spinifex, and was described by anthropologist Scott Cane as "desert Sun and desert Shadow".
Native title claim
The Spinifex people were forced out of the Great Victoria Desert in the 1950s by atomic testing. They returned to their homelands in the 1980s to find the southern part of their country converted into nature reserve, the northern third leased to Aboriginal people living to the north;, and the centre Vacant Crown Land. Incensed and spurred on by the Mabo Judgement of 1992, the Spinifex people mounted a Native Title claim for 55,000 kilometers of land.
As part of the broader Native Title process, the Spinifex Arts Project was established in 1996, to record and document ownership of the Spinifex Area. The painting project soon grew beyond its initial purpose and in 1998 the community produced a series of 10 large paintings, two of which were collaborative, that were bequeathed to the people of Western Australia in a symbolic reciprocal exchange of paintings for land. The gift - and the act of its acceptance - embraces reconciliation, confers an acknowledgement of prior occupation, and symbolizes the indelibility of Spinifex Law.