Courtesans of the Tamaya House screen painting

© Baker, Nyukana. Image reproduced by permission of the artist

Large image 

Not currently on display

Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas 

Object details

Height: 200cm
Width: 114cm
Museum number: Oc2001,09.1

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Silk batik by Nyukana Baker

Indigenous Australian, 2001

Nyukana Baker is an Aboriginal artist from Ernabella in the far north of South Australia. Her mother came from Irrunytju (Wingellina) and her father from Kanypi. They travelled to the new mission of Ernabella during the late 1930s where Baker was born in 1943.

She attended the Ernabella Mission school where children were engaged in art. Ernabella has had an art centre since 1948 and artists from there have worked in many media.

Baker has been producing art continuously since 1964 and she was one of a number of artists from Ernabella who visited Indonesia and began making batiks in the 1970s. Batik has been used to make items of clothing as well as long lengths of silk decorated with designs relating to the lands around Ernabella. The success of batik at Ernabella led to its use in other Aboriginal communities in central Australia.

This work was produced for the British Museum in 2001. Five dyings were needed to create the final design. While motifs used on silk are distinctive, the artists do not ascribe specific meaning to them but they are inspired by the country in which they live and know intimately.

Baker has also worked in ceramics, print, and painting. A retrospective of her work was shown at the Jam Factory Contemporary Craft and Design, Adelaide, 1 August to 6 September 2009.

She was chair of Ernabella Arts from 1990 until 2000. Her works are represented in many museums and have been exhibited in Australia as well as Japan, Poland, and Indonesia