Ninuku Arts was founded in 2006 by a small group of Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra artists in a small mud brick building in Kalka, located in the far northwest corner of South Australia. Seeking new mediums to engage young Anangu artists as well as to extend the practices of elder large-scale canvas painters in their final working years, in 2018 Ninuku Arts embarked on an opportunity to explore the Scandinavian glass enameling technique of “grahl” from their remote desert studio in the Tomkinson Ranges. With the support of project funding from the South Australian government, a small group of emerging to senior artists learned to adapt traditional brush and mark making techniques to recreate their individual tjukurpa (stories) and walka (designs) to be encased and blown into glass artworks at the JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design Centre in Adelaide.
Over the past two years a special exchange has emerged between the two cooperative studios, with artists travelling nearly 2000 kilometres across the state to share culture and develop new applications of colour, surface, and form together. This evolving partnership closely mirrors the collaboration between JamFactory and the establishment of Pukatja (Ernabella) Pottery in the 1980’s and seems poised for similar longevity. The exhibition of the first prototypes, “Walka Waru: Ninuku Kalawatjanga ungu painta” was held as part of the Tarnanthi festival in 2019, with works acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia.
The initial success of Walka Waru Kalawatjanga has become a singular source of pride in Pipalyatjara and Kalka communities, celebrating and advancing the enduring culture and distinct visual language of the Western Desert through the creation of a new composite art form unique not only to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara region, but to the wider remote aboriginal art and contemporary craft movements.