Australian Coat of Arms: We Were There and We Are Here

When I dreamed up, in my imagination, the idea to make Coat of Arms, I got to work on it straight away, putting it together and bringing my idea to life.. I really wanted to make one of my own.

The animals on Coat of Arms are our animals. The emu and the kangaroo are our own traditional meat animals. I have also included quandongs, desert raisins and many other important bush foods that have sustained us since ancient times. I have sewn them all into the work. I stitched them on all around the kangaroo and the emu. The emu sees the red fruits of the quandongs and goes, ‘Oh lovely! Look at those delicious red fruits!’ The emu has good eyesight and it always zooms in on red fruits like quandongs. It loves to eat quandongs. The kangaroo eats grasses and green shoots.



Title image:

Niningka Lewis, Pukatja (Ernabella, SA)
Australian Coat of Arms: We Were There and
We Are Here, 2018
Photo: Emma Poletti. Copyright Tjanpi Desert Weavers,
NPY Women’s Council

Niningka Lewis was born in 1945, out bush near Areyonga, in the Northern Territory. She grew up in Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, where she attended school and later worked in the Ernabella craft room, learning to spin wool and weave floor rugs, and make batik. Niningka was a celebrated multi-disciplinary artist, creating fibre art for Tjanpi Desert Weavers, punu work for Maraku Arts and canvas painting for Ernabella Arts. Her work was exhibited in many major art institutions in Australia, and was most recently shown in the exhibitions Sappers and Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches and Nganampa Kililpil: Our Stars—Art from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, in 2016, and Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, in 2018. Niningka sadly passed away in November 2020, and this article has been approved by her family as a fitting memorial.