Hermannsburg Potters Aboriginal Corporation
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The Potters of Hermannsburg
In the early 1900s, Lutheran missionaries arrived in the Western Arrernte community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg) about an hour west of Alice Springs. They offered food, shelter and education to the native people long oppressed by the white settlers who came in the wake of the Overland Telegraph Line, completed in 1872. The area was also hit by severe drought. While many cultural and religious shifts took place, perhaps the largest impact of the Hermannsburg missionaries on the indigenous people was the introduction of arts and crafts, namely watercolor and ceramics. Pottery arrived in the early 1970s and was first taught by Victor Jaensch, from Barossa Valley, who helped source local clay and set up a small kiln. The famous desert painter Albert Namatjira blossomed around the same time and had a lasting effect on the budding potters' style and depiction of country. The first Hermannsburg potters were men, but now it's largely a woman's craft that was taught by accomplished ceramicist Naomi Sharp for 17 years. Today the terracotta pots are still made using the traditional hand-coiled technique before being shaped, burnished, decorated, and finally fired to produce distinctive Aboriginal art pieces that have a strong connection to the land and this singular slice of Australian history.
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