Emily Cullinan is a trailblazing artist who, at 70 years old, has spent a lifetime capturing the essence of her people and culture through her paintings. As one of the most senior women in the community working at Iwantja Arts in Indulkana, Emily has been an integral part of the Iwantja art scene for many years, but it is only recently that she has experienced a real breakthrough in her painting practice.
Emily’s latest works, titled ‘Ananyi Ngura – Travelling Country’, are a beautiful tribute to her early years. They are inspired by her memories of traveling vast distances on foot across the APY Lands with her family. As she paints, she shares stories of the old ways, of a time when there were no cars, and people lived barefoot, traveling around the bush to collect food and hunt for game.
Listening to Emily is like stepping back in time, to a world where the land was everything, and survival depended on the knowledge passed down from generation to generation. She speaks of the places she visited, the foods she ate, and the joys and hardships of life on the road. She remembers the wagons, pulled by camels, that would take them to new places, and the times they would travel in groups, singing and sharing stories around the campfire.
For Emily, painting is a way of keeping those memories alive, of preserving a way of life that is in danger of being forgotten. She takes small paintings and experiments with her palette and mark-making, infusing each piece with the colours and textures of the land she loves. Her works are a testament to the power of art to connect us to our past, and to remind us of the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.