Born: Alice Springs 1973
Aboriginal artist Cynthia Burke was born to Irrunyitju Artist Jean Bourke, and spent most of her life living in the remote desert of Western Australia – in Koolgardie, Warakurna and Docker River. Her Cynthia’s amazing artwork has travelled the globe, and been exhibited across Australia (including including the prestigious Art Gallery of NSW) as well as in international galleries.
Today Cynthia continues to live traditionally, hunting for bush tucker like kangaroo, emu, turkey and goanna.
Minyma Kutjara – Two Sisters Dreaming: Two sisters make the journey home to their original family
These rites are interwoven into the Tjukurpa (Dreaming) and are based on sacred stories which refer to ceremonial knowledge related to Irruntju Women’s Business (Menstruation, courtship, pregnancy, childbirth and imna – ceremonial singing and dancing).
This Dreaming is about a young girl who got lost in a big wind. Her older sister finds her hundreds of miles from home, and being raised by another family. The story goes that the girl is reluctant to leave the new family, whom she has grown used to over time. On the journey back north with her sister to her original family, they discover new rock-holes and sacred places where they can gather food, drink water and hunt.
At all of these places, they engage in sacred ceremony through song and dance and make hair-string belts in preparation for Womens’ Business. The places they sat marked the landscape with new creeks and gullies. It also refers to how the mountain near Irruntju took its form. The mountain is said to represent the time when the older sister, to comfort the younger one who was crying, told her stories and gave her a piggy back.
Kungkarangkalpa or Minyma Trjuta Tjukurpa: Seven Sisters Dreaming. This is one of the most important Tjurkpa for Irrunyjtu and other central desert communities.
Seven sisters were born at Illuwarratjarra. They travelled from Kaliwarra to Wanarn in Western Australia, stopping at significant rock-holes like Kuru Ala, which is a sacred place for women. As the sisters walked across the desert, they were followed by a wati kula-kula (lustful man) called Nyiru.
The man wanted to take one of the sisters as his wife, but he was old and they didn’t want him. The sisters were frightened and ran away, but he tracked them across the desert. Sometimes he tried to trick them, once pretending to be a wayanu (quandong fruit). These sisters can be seen as a cluster of stars with Nyiru following behind them in the night sky.
This cluster of stars is known as Pleiades. Cynthia paints this story with her distinctive minimal style filled with colour, interspersed with vibrant symbols of her country.
Cynthia Burke’s international Exhibitions:
1991 – Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami
1994 – Gabrielle Pizzi Gallery in Milan and Palermo in Italy
1994 – Museum Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany
1999 – Spirit Country Touring in San Francisco