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Khatja Possum

"Seven Sisters Dreaming" by Khatja Possum Nunguarrayi


Size: 202 x 119 cm

Region: Utopia, NT

Medium: Acrylic on Canvas

Khatija Possum is the daughter of Michelle Possum Nungurrayi and Heath Ramzan Tjangala. She is the third generation of painters in her family; her grandfather was the famous Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, renowned for being one of the founding artists of the contemporary indigenous art movement. Khatija's mother Michelle was taught to paint by Clifford and to this day carries on the traditional stories, style, and much of the iconography of Clifford Possum, albeit with stronger color and the addition of women's ceremonial stories and other women's dreamings.

Khatija learned to paint by observing and assisting her mother. It is a process that highlights the importance of art in keeping culture alive as stories are passed from one generation to the next. As Khatija starts her own family, the importance of keeping her cultural heritage strong is of great consequence.

Meaning behind the artwork

The Star Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters is one of the most widely distributed ancient stories amongst Aboriginal Australia. The songline for this story covers more than half the width of the continent, from deep in the Central Desert out to the west coast. The songline travels through many different language groups and different sections of the narrative are recognized in different parts of the country.

In the Seven Sisters story in Aboriginal Australia, the group of stars is Napaljarri sisters from one skin group. In the Warlpiri story of this Jukurrpa, the sisters are often represented carrying the Jampijinpa man Wardilyka, who is in love with the woman. Then the morning star, Jukurra-jukurra, who is a Jakamarra man and who is also in love with the seven Napaljarri sisters, is shown chasing them across the night sky. They are seen to be running away, fleeing from the man who wants to take one of the sisters for his wife. However, under traditional law, the man pursuing the sisters is the wrong skin group and is forbidden to take a Napaljarri wife.