Covered jar, 'Water Birds', earthenware, made by Irene Entata, Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, Australia, 1991
Titled 'Water Birds', this moulded and painted earthenware jar was made in 1991 by Aboriginal potter, Irene Entata, at Hermannsburg, a former Lutheran mission located 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Introduced to the Hermannsburg community in late 1990, pottery would become an important form of traditional and modern expression for the local people. Their early work, including this piece, consisted mostly of rounded jars with sculpted lids, representing either local animals or bush 'tucker'. Around the jars, the potters have applied underglaze colours in the 'dot painting' style and scenes from traditional stories, usually correlating to the figures on the lids.
The Hermannsburg community has gained significant attention since 1991 for its production of rounded pots with sculpted lids. The local people first produced clay forms in the 1950s, under the encouragement of Lutheran missionaries. However, after the closure of the mission in 1974, the practice came to an end when kinship groups began to leave the settlement to re-occupy their traditional territory.
Remembering the figurines that he had modelled in Hermannsburg in the 1950s, Aboriginal Pastor Ungwanaka persuaded the local people to rekindle their interest in pottery and convert it into a viable enterprise. In late 1990, under the direction of the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE, Naomi Sharp established a pottery program in Hermannsburg where she taught local men and women two days per week. Her classes operated from the Adult Education Centre, which housed a potter's wheel and an electric kiln. Sharp also travelled to three different outstations with clays and glazes, returning with pots to be fired.
The first exhibition of Hermannsburg pottery was held in July 1991 at Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, and was opened by acclaimed Aboriginal potter, Thancoupie. Since then, Hermannsburg pots have made their way into national and international collections.