Hermannsburg Potters & NGV – Kick Goals & Have Fun with Art

Young Boy at NGV

A Young visitor participating in activities in Open House: Tromarama for Kids, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

In Melbourne the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is a powerful and endearing community hub; an important aspect of community resilience and empowerment. At the moment they are kicking many goals by encouraging everyone to have fun with art and enjoy the experience by creating something beautiful.

Giving a child an enjoyable focus at all stages of their development is important, and with an artist by their side they discover the joy of learning and exploring.

From toddlers to teens, from twenty to ninety, drawing, listening, looking and making activities are a major tool for thought, creativity and cultural engagement.

They can inspired by different areas of the NGV Collection and the many and diverse stunning temporary exhibitions from their own, or fabulous international collections

AFL Pot 1

Detail: Selection of pots commissioned for the exhibition Our Land is Alive: Hermannsburg Potters for Kids, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

At the moment at the NGV International on St Kilda Road, a major focus for activities is the historical powerhouse of the artistic legacy of Catherine the Great from Russia. Meanwhile The Horse charts its journey as a companion of man through history, and both of these are attracting and pleasing crowds.

Up the road at NGV Australia in the Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square, Nordic Cool is considerably laid back and suits the committed modernists. And then there is the promise of Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei arriving soon, which will be sure to inspire exciting pop up art summer programs.

Before that however, this Spring there will be an added cultural bonus

A wonderful exhibition that respects the uniqueness of our Australian identity.

Our Land is Alive: Hermannsburg Potters for Kids will be starting on 19 September and running through two school holidays until April 16, 2016 at NGV Australia, Fed Square. This show is all about celebrating 25 years of the Arrernte people creating in community.

The Hermannsburg Potters of the Northern Territory will offer a fabulous display of their extraordinary expressive ceramic achievements, revealing how they have helped their community to ‘…reassert their links with their country and tradition’*.

Melbourne visitors and locals will discover an endearing aspect of our indigenous communities art and culture, with the NGV commissioning some twenty AFL-themed Hermannsburg pots depicting iconic moments for Aboriginal players in the AFL.

Potting at Hermannsburg

Artist Rahel Ungwanaka of the Hermannsburg Potters at work in the Potters’ studio. Photo: Tobias Titz courtesy National Gallery of Victoria.

They are sure to delight everyone in Melbourne, both players and visitors alike.

Each of the AFL teams are depicted, with some of the most historic scenes from Aussie Rules football featuring Indigenous Australian players such as Cyril Rioli, Adam Goodes, Nicky Winmar and Michael Long. They highlight the importance of the game for all Australians, helping to create a dialogue with the community through one of its endearing traditions and passions.

Martin Foley MP, Minister for Creative Industries, said, “Art and sport are celebrated markers of Australian culture. This exhibition brings two worlds together and shows the role creativity plays in starting conversations, forging connections and telling stories to audiences of all ages.”

Potters & Church

Art centre manager Isabelle Waters with artists Hayley Coulthard, Beth Inkamala, Rahel Ungwanaka, Lindy Rontji, Judith Inkamala, and Rona Rubuntja of the Hermannsburg Potters, pictured in front of the Hermannsburg Mission Church. Photo: Tobias Titz, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

The Hermannsburg Potters are a role model for how we all have a right to help shape our Australian cultural identity and mould its expression.

In this way we can all contribute to national life, community wellbeing and the economy. On the opening weekend, 19th and 20th September bring your family and friends to Meet the Hermannsburg Potters and get into the spirit of the AFL Finals season.

The Hermannsburg Potters community was originally the home of the Hermannsburg Watercolour School, which was pioneered during the mid twentieth century by Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal artists.

Potters Hands

A pot in progress at the Hermannsburg Potters’ studio, Photo: Tobias Titz, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

The skill of making pots was first taught by Lutheran missionaries during the nineteenth century when travelling overland from early settlements in the Barossa Valley of South Australia. They found a suitable place nearby the Finke River to establish a small settlement, which is now known as Hermannsburg or “Ntaria’ by the locals.


:Landscape features near Hermannsburg in the Northern Territory, Photo Tobias Titz, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

All around the countryside itself spectacularly contributes to the Arrente people’s way of life and provides ongoing inspiration. Gum trees with snowy white trunks, red ranges that turn purple, and deep gorges filled with palms makes this a perfect home ground for artists in search of beautiful light and outback scenery. Its wide brown spaces are punctuated now and then with mighty rocky outcrops and wild horses.

The interaction between the indigenous people and the German speaking missionaries is integral to Australian art history. It began with the visits by southern artists in search of the landscape itself, and culminated with the glorious landscape scenes recorded by Albert Namatjira. A further advance was the development of Aboriginal contemporary art.

Painting Pots

Artist Rona Rubuntja of the Hermannsburg Potters at work in the Potters’ studio. Photo: Tobias Titz. courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

The introduced medium of ceramics helped to fashion the unique artistic practice of the town ever since, and today the potters wonderfully capture the essence of the environment around them.

Working in the historic Mission church 130 km south-west of Alice Springs, these talented artisans create their unique terracotta pots using traditional hand coil techniques, melding earth and clay to create their visual culture in story telling.


Landscape features near Hermannsburg in the Northern Territory, Photo: Tobias Titz, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

As much of the area geologically is within the Lake Eyre drainage basin, the Hermannsburg Potters forage for rock salt at the waterholes near Hermannsburg. Singing, gossiping, planning and going on trips together is integral to their way of life.

The exhibition space will also be a rich environment for children.

Painting Pots 2

Graham Polly Farmer, a work in progress by Rahel Ungwanaka, Photo: Tobias Titz, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Pots will be ‘creatively displayed in player positions on a red dirt football field inspired floor, together with a vibrant display of AFL paraphernalia, photography and footage and more than 100 footballs and AFL club flags hanging decoratively from the ceiling’.

Children and families are invited to meet, greet and engage with Hermannsburg Potters, who will be artists-in-residence at the NGV throughout the exhibition.

AFL Pots

Selection of pots commissioned for the exhibition Our Land is Alive: Hermannsburg Potters for Kids, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

Director Tony Ellwood said The Hermannsburg Potters are some of Australia’s most significant Indigenous artists working today and it is our great honour to host them at the NGV to celebrate their 25th year.”

Potters & AFL

Artists Rona Rubuntja, Hayley Coulthard, and Lindy Rontji of the Hermannsburg Potters, with arts centre assistant Selina Malbunka, supporting their local team, the Hermannsburg Bulldogs. Photo: Tobias Titz.

He also noted the exhibition was ‘… a wonderful opportunity for children to work together with the artists and to create a dialogue about the importance of community and understanding through the shared passions of art and football.’

Jessilla Rogers Ceramic Crown

Creative Encounters at NGV – Jessilla Rogers 3: Ceramic ‘crown’ vessel by Jessilla Rogers, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

During the September 2015 School Holidays and over two sessions this Spring participants can also become involved in a hands-on making pot activity – A planned Ceramics Workshop for 13 – 17 year olds will see them create vessels of their own guided by leading Melbourne ceramicist Jessilla Rogers and inspired by the works of the Hermannsburg Potters or aspects of other exhibitions that catch their attention.

They will learn how to build a piece in clay and to decorate it. Jessilla will give them a crash course in creating hand-sculpted ceramic vessels’ that should prove to be lots of fun. Bookings are required.


Cover: Kat Chadwick’s Catherine the Great: An Art Book for Kids, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Kat Chadwick, illustrator of the NGV Kids publication for their current exhibition Catherine the Great: An Art Book for Kids, will also be leading an illustration workshop.

Kids (6+) will be invited to Draw a Dog with Kat, inspired by her delightful whimsical drawings of crowns, palaces and royal pet dogs.

Educationalists around the world agree drawing particularly helps us think, invent, express and communicate our ideas, regardless of age or ability. Masterclasses for Teachers are integral to the NGV Program of events.

Drawing can and does connect generations and communities and its popular Saturday Art Workshops for 10 – 14 year olds are ongoing. As are indeed sketching in the gallery for adult members, who also gain discounts to its ongoing lecture series. Then there is their excellent program the art of memory, aiding those struggling with the onset of dementia.

Learning is for everyone and if children and their carers engage in a meaningful activity together, it augurs well not only for the future of their family life, but also for their life in community.

It’s a delight to walk into the NGV at either of their locations, St Kilda Road or Fed Square, whether it is school time or school holidays, and find the place filled with children on a school excursion or enjoying fun family activities using a variety of media.

It augurs well for the future of this splendid institution, and Australia, as it seeks to understand and embrace how always-evolving patterns of connectivity foster pro social behaviour and aid the transmission of social values and behaviours through networking.

Kids Having Fun

NGV Installation view of Open House: Tromarama for Kids, photo by Stephanie McLeod, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

In this digitally enabled 21st century it is important that our major institutions support innovation, helping to develop our creative nature and providing impetus to the growth of knowledge and creative industries.

Old Tom

Leigh HOBBS Poster design for Old Tom (1994), synthethic polymer paint, brush and ink and fibre-tipped pen, (sheet), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift Albert Ullin OAM, 2014

Developing a relationship with the imagery of our world is an vital aspect of a life long learning process and NGV Kids and their Activities Programs are helping to expand and link the lines of communication between people and cultures.

Bunyips and Dragons is another delightful exhibition, also at NGV Australia, revealing how children’s book illustrators have contributed since the 1970’s to the love of children’s picture books.

If you would like to inform your perceptions about how and why Melbourne is and has become the most liveable city in the world, you can see in this one place how and why.

It is without doubt because a majority of its community are heavily involved in all aspects of the growth of its visual and performing arts.

Creating a platform on which the community can engage and articulate its ides through holding visual conversations about life in an enjoyable way can be life affirming and life changing for everyone. Social networks power and sustain our society.

The National Gallery of Victoria has a simple philosophy and a message that is indeed powerful; bringing people of all cultures and communities together to create an environment that is enriching in the way we live in it and deal with each other. Make it your aim to visit soon… kick a few goals as you check out all their weekend and holiday programs for adults, teens and kids alike.

You will be amazed!

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

National Gallery of Australia

Our Land is Alive: Hermannsburg Potters for Kids

Public Programs and Events

NGV International | NGV Australia


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