Artist: Betty Muffler

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About this artwork

Hope. It is a powerful word that resonates with us strongly in 2020. Bushfires. Floods. A global pandemic. We need hope now more than ever. The September issue of all 26 editions of Vogue have focused on hope, with each producing a cover to reflect a universal longing for a recovered future.

In the midst of Australia’s lockdown, the Vogue Australia team collaborated with the National Gallery of Australia to commission Anangu / Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara woman, spiritual healer and artist, Betty Muffler to bring hope to life. (or bring us hope).
‘Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country) 2020’ is the first original fine artwork to feature on the cover of Vogue Australia in its 60 year history and is on display at the National Gallery of Australia for all to view.

As an artist and Ngangkari (healer), Muffler, who is now in her 70s, knows the power of finding hope in adversity. Growing up in country near Watarru, on the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory, she is a survivor of the Maralinga bombings that took members of her family in the 1950s and 60s. The impact of these nuclear tests remains today. With her surviving family members, including her sisters and aunties, Muffler relocated to the Ernabella Mission situated in the Musgrave Ranges on Pitjantjatjara country.

Learn more about Betty Muffler

From outback South Australia, Betty Muffler, her family and her people grew up facing incomprehensible hardships and adversities. It was through such times that hope empowered them. This included nuclear testing that occured in the remote part of South Australia where her community lived.

As an Anangu/Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara woman, Betty Muffler was recognised by the Elders of her community as a Ngangkari, a healer. As a healer her role is about healing herself, her people and her Country. This is evident in the title of this commissioned artwork, Ngangkari Ngura or Healing Country. Having been connected to their land, their Country for tens of thousands of years, the Anangu people have a deeply reverent relationship with the land. The health of the Country is directly related to Anangu people’s health and wellbeing. Based on this, many of the cultural rituals, sacred sites and performing the inma (songs and dance handed down) are continued as part of the respect and guardianship of the Country. This long connection speaks to the entwined relationship between the land, the people and sustainability.

This connection and her role as a Ngangkari has strongly influenced Betty Muffler’s indigenous art works. Her art is an inspired translation of her Tjukurpa (dreamtime/dreaming stories). It is her connection with Tjukurpa and her position as a Ngangkari that is shared across the canvas, speaking of her community, her people and the importance of Country. Her paintings have been described as powerful, resonating with energy. Her paintings are a journal of her time as a Ngangkari, of the shared stories from ancestors, of healing. There is a depth, a spirituality here that we white people will never comprehend, but may we be open-minded and appreciative as these stories of old, the connection shared between the indigenous people and this Country.

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