Family connections – by Marisa Maher
All the artists that work here at the Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands art centre are connected to Albert Namatjira. These connections can be complicated for people outside of our knowledge system. There are multiple ways that we are all interconnected. Artists are connected through their Dreamings. Artists are connected through their ancestors’ bloodline. Artists are connected by learning to paint in the Hermannsburg school style down the generations. Artists are connected by place; their families coming from Hermannsburg.
Before missionary times and first contact, our people had traditional names and a kinship system. Many of our people had tribal names for their connection and relation to each other. Western style family trees only map one aspect of how we are related, which is the bloodline. It’s not the best way to show the complex relationship we share in our family.
A family tree for Aboriginal people is quite difficult to explain and complicated in some ways. Most marriages are through culture and ceremony. Skin names or kinship comes into effect by their known family connection on country. Many of these practices are still being followed by the next generation, like myself. I continue to teach my kids what I was taught by my elders about cultural knowledge and connection to family through Dreaming and belonging to country.
Marisa Maher is a family member of the Iltja Ntjarra artists and is employed as the assistant manager in the organisation.