About the Festival

Tarnanthi, pronounced tar-nan-dee, is a Kaurna word from the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains. It means to come forth or appear – like the sun and the first emergence of light. For many cultures, first light signifies new beginnings.

Building on the popular and critical success of the 2015 Festival, TARNANTHI returns in 2017, presenting the art of Australia’s oldest living culture on an unprecedented scale. A platform for artists from across the country to share important stories, TARNANTHI sheds new light on contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

The Festival’s artistic vision encourages new beginnings by providing artists with opportunities to create significant new work. TARNANTHI works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to extend the practices they have been developing in studios, art centres, institutions and communities.


The Art Gallery of South Australia acknowledges the Kaurna People as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide Plains and recognises their cultural and heritage beliefs. The Gallery proudly celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture and expresses its gratitude and respect to the artists who have created these works. The Gallery also pays respect to the cultural authority of Aboriginal people visiting here from across Australia.

Artistic Director Nici Cumpston

TARNANTHI is led by Artistic Director Nici Cumpston. Of Afghan, English, Irish and Barkindji Aboriginal heritage, Nici is a descendant of the Darling River people of northern NSW and culturally affiliated with the River Murray people around Berri in the South Australian Riverland. She is also the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, the Gallery’s first Aboriginal curator, and in 2014 she was appointed as Artistic Director of TARNANTHI. Nici’s career has been characterised by working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to bring new work and new ways of seeing to broad audiences.

Message from the Cultural Advisory Committee

It is our great pleasure to invite you to join us for TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art for 2017 and to share in the extraordinary art and cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – Australia’s first peoples.

TARNANTHI, a unique experience and one not to be missed, provides a platform for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to connect and engage with exhibitions and events highlighting the artistic excellence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country. Equally as important, the artists have the opportunity to present their work to national and international audiences. TARNANTHI is a gathering for those who seek to know more about our art and our culture. We encourage you to fully immerse yourself in and embrace what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists have on offer.

As is custom, we extend our respect and acknowledge the Kaurna people and their ancestors of the Adelaide Plains, and on whose lands we celebrate.

We honour the many artists and senior cultural custodians who feature in the range of events listed in this program. It is a privilege to serve you in the role as co-chairs of the TARNANTHI Cultural Advisory Committee.

We would like to thank our fellow TARNANTHI committee members for their important contribution, including: Mandy Brown, Tjulapi Carroll, Angela Flynn, Frank Lampard, AOM, Dr Lewis O’Brien, AO, Hetti Perkins, Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Inawantji Scales, Lisa Slade, Joyleen Thomas, Simone Tur and Philip Watkins. Your experience, dedication and counsel have been integral to realising this important event.

It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the loss and recent passing of Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith, a treasured Kaurna Narrunga Elder and member of the TARNANTHI Cultural Advisory Committee. He was an esteemed colleague of the Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi team of the Kaurna language reclamation unit at the University of Adelaide and he assisted us to find the ‘right’ word in Kaurna language to express the new beginning that TARNANTHI signifies. Along with his son Jamie, Stevie led the Welcome to Country and was the cultural ambassador for the opening of TARNANTHI in 2015. His leadership, guidance and cultural advice will be greatly missed and we will forever cherish his contribution to South Australia’s artistic and cultural life. We offer our deepest condolences to family, extended family and friends.

We highly commend TARNANTHI to you all. We congratulate the artists who have diligently worked towards this Festival and who will journey from across the nation to converge on Adelaide. We take great pleasure in inviting you into their creative and cultural world.

Lee-Ann Tjunypa Buckskin
Klynton Wanganeen

Cultural Advisory Committee

Premier Welcome

TARNANTHI is an extraordinary event held in an exceptional place. Positioned midway between Australia’s east and west coasts, and at the gateway to Central Australia, South Australia is perfectly placed to host a national Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture. My Government and I are proud to support this excellent and esteemed international festival here in Adelaide.

TARNANTHI is just one of the ways the South Australian Government demonstrates its commitment to the agency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Artistic leadership and direction is at the heart of TARNANTHI. With the generous assistance of BHP, the Art Gallery of South Australia works closely with artists, collectives and art centres across the country to showcase art and culture and bring to fruition projects that might not otherwise be possible.

I encourage you to visit the cultural institutions and partner organisations in this program and to see as many TARNANTHI exhibitions and events as possible.

Hon Jay Weatherill MP
Premier of South Australia

Principal Partner BHP Message

Being part of TARNANTHI in 2017 is a privilege for the team at BHP Olympic Dam and something we are tremendously proud of. We believe that TARNANTHI strongly aligns with BHP’s vision to celebrate diversity in culture and engage in meaningful conversations with Indigenous people. As a global resource company, many of our operations are located on or near lands traditionally owned by Indigenous peoples and we want to build strong relationships with our host communities. TARNANTHI is a partnership that creates a sense of sustainability and the opening up of real economic streams for remote communities. Having recently been lucky enough to meet some of the artists and see their country, I know this partnership has, and will, make a difference for generations to come.

I would like to acknowledge the commitment of the South Australian Government and the Art Gallery of South Australia in this collaboration. Working together has provided this platform to benefit all South Australians to support contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. My hope for this year’s event is that even more young people will participate as well as greater numbers from regional South Australia – there’s an opportunity for everyone to be involved in this wonderful celebration of culture.

TARNANTHI is one of South Australia’s most important cultural events and we’re excited to see what the future holds for the Festival over the next five years.

Jacqui McGill
Asset President
BHP Olympic Dam


Principal Partner



Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art

Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace Adelaide,
SA 5000

General enquiries
Phone: +61 8 8207 7000
Email: tarnanthi@artgallery.sa.gov.au