The National Museum of Australia's specially commissioned new work depicts a vivid scene from the Indigenous Seven Sisters songline.
The figures were commissioned by the museum to join the touring version of its award-winning 2017-18 exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters.
Senior Indigenous curator and head of the museum's Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, Margo Neale said the exhibition was being opened in time for Reconciliation Day on Monday. But, she said, it was something of "an introduction and goodbye" as the national tour of the exhibition - its beginning still unconfirmed - would last for years.
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters traced the ancestral creation story of the Seven Sisters across Martu country, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands and Ngaanyatjarra lands.
These figures depict a key moment in the story, when shape-shifter Wati Nyiru is seen during his long pursuit of the seven sisters and they are transforming into trees to fool him. Ms Neale said the eight life-sized figures were made last year by 15 women artists from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers on their country near Walinynga (Cave Hill) in Central Australia.
Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yakunytjatjara Women's Council. It represents 400 artists, all Anangu/Yarnangu women from remote communities. The artists made the figures out of traditional and modern materials, including tjanpi ( grass in the Pitjantjatjara language), bird wire, acrylic yarn and emu feathers.
Ms Neale said the Seven Sisters figures shown in last year's museum exhibition had been on loan and were fragile. She said, "We wanted to ensure there were versions available for the lengthy touring show which would also become important and valuable acquisitions for the museum's permanent collection."
Ms Neale said this was a creation story that had evolved over many thousands of years.
"Indigenous storytelling doesn't have a beginning and an end," she said.
"It's still alive because it's being told."
- The figures will be at the National Museum of Australia from May 25 until August 4 with associated activities. nma.gov.au.