The Watiku project was designed around the need to support male artists, who wish to paint and who live on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands) across the North West of South Australia. In particular, the project has a focus on the art centres on the Eastern side of the APY Lands, including the art centres at Ernabella, Fregon, Mimili and Indulkana. The project aims to allow those men the opportunity to paint, in an environment, facilitated by men. With all the art centre managers on the APY Lands being female, male artists have tended to find the watiku project gives them a chance to paint, create, hopefully make some money, from their work in an environment in which they feel comfortable.
Anangu culture tends to segregate the sexes, for certain activities. Given that Anangu paintings often depict stories that hold knowledge and meaning of particular relevance to either men or women, it is no surprise that men might remove themselves from the company of women, or vise versa, during the recounting of these stories and laying them onto canvas.
Work began in February 2009 when Wayne Eager, Watiku project coordinator with Ananguku Arts, made his first trip to Mimili and then Indulkana. In the weeks that followed, Wayne was joined by Ben Danks, business development mentor, Ananguku Arts. Very quickly, the project was referred to as the “Wati Kutjara” or two men.
The “Wati Kutjara” worked with many artists over the last 5 months of the project. Several artists painted for what was understood to be their first time during visits by the Watiku project. There were also artists who had painted very little previously. A number of these artists showed very promising signs straight away and have since had their work included in exhibitions and/or sold within weeks or months of starting to work with the Watiku project.
Although the major focus was on male painters, the project worked with many women also, including facilitation of two collaborative works with the women of Tjala Arts at Amata.