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NT Prisoners’ art takes flight in Alice Springs

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Batchelor Institute visual art student sculptures at Tjulpu Thipe!

 

Batchelor Institute visual art students from within the Alice Springs Correctional Centre have been featured in standalone exhibition at the Araluen Arts Centre for the first time.

Tjulpu Thipe! is a collection of sculptural works, a colourful assemblage of birds created with found objects, recycled materials, metal, paper pulp, wire, screws and even discarded work gloves (which make for excellent wings). Tjulpu and Thipe are the Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri, Luritja, Yankunytjatjara and Arrernte words for ‘bird’, and it embodies the language groups of the artists.

The Alice Springs inmates’ work is usually very popular, and often sells out when previously presented at the annual Desert Mob exhibition. Within just a few weeks of the opening night 90 of the 120 Tjulpu Thipe! sculptural works were sold.

Batchelor Institute offers visual arts training and through a Service Level Agreement with Northern Territory Department of the Attorney-General Justice. Prisoners from the Northern Territory’s Darwin and Alice Springs Correctional Centres are able to access a wide range Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, delivered by both Batchelor and Corrections trainers, all with the aim of increasing employability of prisoners on release and reducing recidivism.

The benefits of this program is obvious when speaking to some of the students.

“Having the opportunity to paint or sculpt, print or draw really helps me to express my emotions in a positive way,” said a recent graduate in visual arts from Alice Springs Correctional Facility.

“Not only can you create something beautiful, you can learn to deal with whatever problems life may throw at you a little better.”

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Sold bird sculptures at the Araluen Arts Centre exhibition

 

Batchelor Institute Director of Alliance Management Dr Melodie Bat was present at the exhibition’s opening night.

“This exhibition is exceptional – it showcases the creativity and resourcefulness of the artists and gives them this opportunity to exhibit and sell their artwork. The story of the sculptures has many layers– they have a cultural message to bring to us as highlighted by the title of the exhibition being in both Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte,” said Dr Bat in her opening address.

“They also aim to raise awareness about sustainability by using materials that are inexpensive and often up cycled, recycled and easily sources. Let me please take a moment to thank all those who support this program – this approach is one that is leading the country. So well done everyone.”

Tjulpu Thipe! opened in May 2017. The exhibition will run until June 21st.

 

 

Words and images by Chelsea Heaney