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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

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
Commissioned 2009
© Hermannsburg Potters Aboriginal Corporation

Artist and subject

Hermannsburg Potters

Irene Mbitjana Entata (age 63 in 2009)

Virginia Mbitjana Rontji

Lindy Panangka Rontji (age 47 in 2009)

Rahel Kngwarria Ungwanaka (age 63 in 2009)

Rona Panangka Rubuntja (age 39 in 2009)

Dawn Ngala Wheeler (age 56 in 2009)

Judith Pungarta Inkamala (age 62 in 2009)

Anita Ratara Mbitjana (age 66 in 2009)

Hayley Panangka Coulthard (age 42 in 2009)

Clara Ngala Inkamala

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related portraits

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Of human clay

Magazine article by Michael Desmond, 2009

The first collaborative commission has arrived. It's a self portrait, it's ceramic and it's from Hermannsburg.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency