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Ernabella rugs

Three vibrant rugs are exhibited on level 1 of the Spence Wing, in front of the Treasures Wall. They were designed by Pantjiti McKenzie from Ernabella Arts Inc of the Pukatja Community, and are an important part of the library's showcase of art and library treasures representing South Australia's social and cultural heritage.

Ernabella is 440 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs and is one of the oldest permanent settlements on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands returned to the Indigenous people in 1981. In 1948 the Presbyterian mission at Ernabella had set up a craft room where the women, who already had an ancient tradition of hand spinning, adapted their technique to use the wool from the Ernabella sheep to produce fine woollen goods and rugs. In 1971 the Javanese wax-resist fabric decoration technique of batik was introduced and has become one of the signature Ernabella contemporary art forms, 'Anapalayaku walka' along with paintings on canvas, print-making, painted ceramics, and lately beanies!

The State Library has a longstanding relationship with Ernabella Arts Inc. The women of the Pukatja Community entrusted to the library's archives a collection of crayon drawings created by children at the Ernabella Mission School during the 1940s and 1950s. The distinctive Ernabella style reaches back to the first drawing classes in the mission school. The library has supported Ernabella Arts Inc in their efforts to preserve their community's heritage, through the donation of shelving and filing cabinets to house its own archives.

The State Library commissioned contemporary Ernabella artists, who continue to maintain their unbroken cultural links over thousands of years, to design the three rugs. Their placement, adjacent to a Treasures Wall will provide a wonderful resonance with the meaning and importance of the library in the life of South Australia today. 

The State Library rug design commission was generously supported by the Myer Foundation, Perpetual Trustees, the then State Library of South Australia Foundation, the Hon Diana Laidlaw and Ms Bronwyn Halliday.


Located above the Spence Library entrance visible from the ground floor glass foyer, the relief text on the entry bulkhead uses words from an essay by Kiera Lindsay

we speak, read and write ourselves into being

The text refers to the role of language in the construction of both the self and society:

'Language in all its forms, speech, sign and text, not only enables communication and the transmission of knowledge but also plays a key role in how we construct our sense of who we are as individuals and as a society.'

From Kiera Lindsey, 'Creative Cartographies: An Interview with Paul Carter', Siglo4: Writing Landscapes, [Conference] Hobart, March 1995. 

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