Kunmanara Kawiny / Pitjantjatjara people / Australia SA b.c.1921–2013 / Mona Mitakikil Shepherd (collaborating artist) / Pitjantjatjara people / Australia b.1954 / Tjimpayie Prestley (collaborating artist) /Pitjantjatjara people / Australia b.1967 / Seven sisters 2011 / Synthetic polymer paint on linen / 196 x 196.5cm / Purchased 2012 with funds from Margaret Mittelheuser, AM, and Cathryn Mittelheuser, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artists


Kunmanara KAWINY; Mona Mitakikil SHEPHERD; Tjimpayie PRESTLEY
Seven sisters  2011

On Display: QAG, Gallery 2

Seven sisters 2011 tells the Pitjantjatjara story of Kungkarangkalpa Tjukurpa, or the Seven Sisters Dreaming, and is painted in flat areas of colour, overlaid by clusters of bright, vibrant circles and dots.

The story explains the movement of the Seven Sisters constellation (the Pleiades) and the Nyiru constellation (Orion) across the night sky. Nyiru was an evil man who wanted to marry the eldest sister. To escape his unwanted attention, the sisters forever travel between the sky and the earth, and he continues to pursue them.

Kunmanara Kawiny and her family (including daughters Mona Mitakikil Shepherd and Tjimpayie Prestley) are the traditional owners of Tjurma country, in northern South Australia.

As well as painting, Kawiny made animal figures and baskets from tjanpi (grass) and wool. Kawiny was a member of Tjala Arts Aboriginal Art Centre from around 1999 until her death in 2013. The Seven Sisters is one of the largest Tjukurpa shared among many Aboriginal peoples; this painting is one part of a much larger narrative.

Discussion Questions

Stargazing is a mesmerising phenomenon that shapes our awareness of time and space. Factors that can influence the experience include the time of night, season, location and whether or not you are alone. How do you feel when you look up at the stars? How have the artists depicted the sky, as well as the story of the Seven Sisters, in a single painting?

Classroom Activities

1. Create a map that overlaps the points of Pleiades constellation with a map that records your routines (school, work, sport, social activity, etc.). Create a system of colours and shapes to reveal patterns (Hint: begin with simple pinpoints and then add more detail and complexity to your map).

2. Research the Ancient Greek myth of the Pleiades. Compare and contrast the story of Atlas’s seven daughters with the Anangu story of the Seven Sisters.