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Potters' Portrait Pot
, 2009

by Hermannsburg Potters

fired terracotta clay, underglaze

The small settlement of Hermannsburg, 130 km west of Alice Springs, was founded by German Lutherans in the 1880s. From the beginning, missionaries sought to convert the Aranda people to Christianity, but after 1894, Pastor Carl Strehlow urged and helped them to maintain their own stories and language in tandem with European ways. In the mid-1930s, painter Albert Namatjira developed the watercolour painting style that resonates through the art of the region. Since Victor Jaensch set up a pottery there in the early 1970s, the Hermannsburg craftspeople have built a thriving business, and their brightly painted coil pots have been widely exhibited. Having long used local clay to adorn their bodies, Aranda women feel an affinity with the medium. One of the potters explains: 'I like to work here with the ladies, we got good times here. I like to feel the clay, feels good. When I make something I like to hold it. I make lizards and birds and flowers and I'm happy.'

The potters have asked that the spelling 'Aranda' be used in their description, rather than 'Arrernte', which is now more commonly used.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned 2009
Accession number: 2009.101