Trephina Sultan Thanguwa
Trephina was born in an Alice Springs hospital in 1967. She grew up in the Kings Canyon Region in an area named Ukaka. Trephina began painting at a very early age; she often watched her uncles, aunties and cousins paint. She often imitated their paintings using a stick in the dirt.
While she attended an English-speaking school in Alice Springs, English became her first language. At the same time, she was taught Luritja, the language of her family and Elders at home. Her language skills have enabled her to work as an interpreter, in which her contributions to a Luritja-English Dictionary were of great significance.
Born in 1967 in Alice Springs, Trephina grew up with many uncles, aunties, and cousins doting on her as a beautiful young Aboriginal girl, she was the only child in her family. Trephina's painting talents started at an incredibly young age. As a young girl, she used to sit and watch her uncles, aunties, cousins and friends paint for hours at a time. She would then pick up a stick and draw her art in the dirt.
For the Aboriginal people, the creation of art using the natural resources around them, dates back many thousands of years in Aboriginal culture. Art had revolved around symbolism and a limited set of colours, created by crushing ochres found in the region. Much of the early works were found depicted on rocks and in caves. The early 70s saw a change in the tools they used and a shift in style, with many Aboriginal artists expanding beyond the original colours of ochre, whilst using the modern medium of acrylic and canvas, interpreting their dream time and culture through the classic 'dot-style' that is synonymous with the Aboriginal art movement.
Many of Trephina's early work is done in this 'dot-style'. Although she still produces artwork in this style, Trephina like many artists, has evolved from the natural colours reflected in the landscape of 'Central Australia' to expanding to a larger palate of colours.
Other changes can also be seen in her work, as she tentatively paints in masterful strokes of vibrant hues, producing her extremely popular 'Tjanpi Kampanyi' (Burning Grass). These beautiful works are evocative and capture the very essence of Aboriginal culture: In casual conversation, it was interesting to hear from Trephina, how the style developed. She use to do it as a background and really liked the brush strokes on it's own. Even back then, it had evoked memories of burning grass. Now taking centre stage, each new 'Tjanpi Kampanyi' would burn in its own flames. With each canvas, Trephina would vary the colour, some showing black in the background, some white, others with bright orange-yellow flames.
Trephina's paintings represent her family's culture, upbringing as a young child, and stories as told by her Elders. Her paintings include Aboriginal symbolism of vegetation, food sources, watering holes and the wildlife of Central Australia. Sometimes, she would wake up in the early morning with a memory resonating from her past. These may be a story or answer to some current piece she is working on, or the inspiration for a new painting.