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Kunmanara (Milatjari) Pumani

b. 1928

d. 2014

 

Kunmanara Milatjari was an immensely important figure in the art centre and community. She passed on a huge amount of knowledge about the land, women's business and Tjukurpa that are still painted today. Her cultural authority and leadership were unequalled, which was tangible in her raw and expressive paintings. Her prolific painting practice created the very foundation for Mimili Maku Arts, with her work being the first to be acquired by national institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, ArtBank and the Art Gallery of South Australia. 

 

The artist was born in 1928 at Amuroona, a station between Indulkana Community and Mimili Community on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia.

 

When she was a young girl, Kunmanara first came across white people out at Paralpi, an area today called Victory Well. The men, station workers from Everard Park, gave her clothes, sugar and flour. She would later move into the settlement known as Everard Park Station with her family to work. Kunmanara’s father was Nyapi (known as King Everard) and her mother was Mantjangka Everard. She had a brother, Mike Kanari (dec), and a sister, Susan Wangin (dec). Kunmanara Milatjari met her husband Sam in Mimili and they had five children together: Betty, Ngupulya, Ken, Michael and Lewey. 

 

The country Kunmanara Milatjari repeatedly described in her paintings is Antara, a significant ceremonial site not far from Mimili Community. Kunmanara Milatjari’s uncle was a carer for Antara, and this is where she grew up. Kunmanara Milatjari would talk about sleeping there with her mother and father at night in wiltja (shelter) by the fire. Antara is a special place where the women would dig for Maku (witchetty grubs).