In April 2016, Edgar Basto, BHP Billiton Asset President Western Australia Iron, joined Martumili artists and elders and the community to celebrate the opening of a new $8 million arts centre in Newman. The East Pilbara Arts Centre is an initiative by the Shire of East Pilbara. Through its social investment program, BHP Billiton has invested $4.4 million into the construction of the architecturally designed multi-purpose building which includes an art gallery, artist work areas, flexible community space, commercial kitchen, offices and staff accommodation. The Centre is intended to support the Martumili artists through areas specifically designed to respect cultural traditions. Carly Day, Martumili’ s Art and Business Manager, said the new home “creates a stronger sense of East Pilbara identity and nurtures cultural expression and creativity”. The Centre is managed by the Shire of East Pilbara who also contributed $500,000. Other partners who assisted in funding the project include the Pilbara Development Commission with $3.5 million and Lotterywest with $750,000.
The opening of the Centre signifies another important milestone in the revitalisation of Newman. “This is a historic day for our Shire as the opening of the East Pilbara Arts Centre highlights just how far we have come in our aspirations to be a key regional centre in the Pilbara,” said Shire President Lynne Craigie. “It is also a great privilege to be able to celebrate the opening with We Don’t Need a Map because this beautiful facility is an amalgamation of the Shire of East Pilbara and the success of Martumili Artists.” We Don’t Need a Map brings the desert to the city to celebrate the lively and enduring culture of the Martu – the traditional owners of a vast area of WA’s Western Desert. This remarkable exhibition includes the work of more than 30 artists and is an exploration of the Martu people, their way of life, the way they care for country and belong to it. As well as illustrating the distinct contemporary visual language of the Martu, this landmark event breaks down barriers by bringing together Martu and other artists to collaborate and exhibit together. Featuring stunning paintings, cutting-edge new media collaborations, finely wrought objects, aerial desert photography, bush tucker and talks with the Martu artists and rangers, the exhibition and public program will surprise and inspire audiences. Speaking at the official opening of the Centre, Mr Basto highlighted the value BHP Billiton places on its partnerships with Aboriginal people and the opportunity such investments provide in improving Aboriginal outcomes. “We wish the Martumili artists every success as they settle into their new home at the East Pilbara Arts Centre. We hope the provision of this centre allows them to grow as a group and inspire others to enjoy their creations while learning and understanding more about their culture. “The Centre will continue to help put Newman on the map as a town known for its creativity, culture and stories,” said Mr Basto. The Martumili Artists Group is an unincorporated organisation established by the Shire of East Pilbara in 2006 to provide art centre services to Martu people living in Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji (Nullagine) and Warralong communities. Since its inception in 2006, Martumili Artists have catalogued the work of approximately 300 artists. Of these there are approximately 75 active artists, with around 35 to 45 of these being of high prominence and in some cases internationally regarded. BHP Billiton has proudly provided operational funding to Martumili Artists via the Shire of East Pilbara since 2007. A new five-year contract has recently been signed to the value of $2.2 million. At the opening of the Centre, Nyiyaparli spokesman David Stock stood with prominent Martu Artist sisters Lily Long and Amy French to greet visitors. “Our ‘mia’ – our art house – is here and thank you for coming along to celebrate it,” they said.