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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Seven sisters



Tjampawa Katie Kawiny


circa 1921 - Jul 2013

Language group

Pitjantjatjara, Southern Desert region


Tjala Arts was established in 1999 (originally as Minymaku Arts) and provides the opportunity for Anangu (Pitjanjatjara people) to develop skills in fine art and regional production. The art centre also plays a significant role in the well-being of the community and maintaining culture and law.

Kawiny and her family are the traditional owners of the homeland called Tjurma which is adjacent to the Amata community. Kawiny previously lived at Irrunytju, but now resides at the homeland of Katjikuta about 5 kilometres north-east of Amata. She joined Tjala Arts around 1999 and as well as painting she makes animal figures and baskets.

The art centre documentation for this work states: Tjampawa, her daughter Tjimpayi Presley, daughter-in-law Mona Mitakiki and grand-daughter Kia Shepherd have depicted the Seven Sisters Story. This is a Tjukurpa story about the constellations of Pleiades and Orion.

These sisters are the constellation of Pleiades and the other star Orion is said to be Nyiru and Nyirunya (described as a lusty or bad man). Nyiru is forever chasing the sisters known as the Kunkarunkara women as it is said he wants to marry the eldest sister. The seven sisters travel again and again from the sky to the earth to escape Nyiru's unwanted attentions. They turn into their human form to escape from the persistent Nyiru, but he always finds them and they flee back to the sky.

As Nyiru is chasing the sisters he tries to catch them by using magic to turn into the most tempting kampurarpra (bush tomatoes) for the sisters to eat and the most beautiful Ili (fig) tree for them to camp under. However, the sisters are too clever for Nyiru and outwit him as they are knowledgeable about his magic. They go hungry and run through the night rather than be caught by Nyiru.

Every now and again one of the women fall victim to his ways. It is said that he eventually captures the youngest sister, but with the help of the oldest sister, she escapes back to her sisters who are waiting for her. Eventually the sisters fly back into the sky to escape Nyiru, reforming the constellation. (In some cases the artist will secretly depict sexual elements as Nyiru is really only after one thing – sex).




Media category


Materials used

synthetic polymer paint on canvas


197.0 x 198.0 cm stretcher

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group 2011


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Tjampawa Katie Kawiny

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Craig Brush, Look, ‘The AGNSW on tour: travelling near and far…’, pg. 54, Sydney, Aug 2012, 54 (colour illus.). Article featured in ‘Last word’.