Indigenous Artist Sharing Christmas Nativity Story with Animation

The Christmas nativity as seen through the language and paintbrush of a Pitjantatjara woman has been turned into an animation.

Artist Nyinta Donald hails from the remote Central Australian community of Areyonga — about 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs — and says Christianity is very important in her life and the lives of many Indigenous Australians.

She has taken the traditional Christmas story she knows so well and placed it on her country, the central desert, with Indigenous characters.

A painting which shows a group of grandmothers, aunties and mothers telling the Christmas story to their children.

“It’s a story about the Bible, about Jesus coming into this world so our grandchildren or someone in family groups might see it,” she said.

“It’s very important, Christianity and our faith.”

One of Nyinta’s traditional roles as a senior woman is to educate and tell stories to younger generations. She hopes the animation will do just that.

“It’s really special and important for us to learn and teach our children,” she said.

“I hope it will help them, or touch their heart … especially the ones who walk around not knowing that it’s Christmas.

“And it will be very special for the little ones because I’ve got two grandchildren and three or four of the grown-ups don’t know the Christmas story.”

Artist Nyinta Donald paints the nativity set in Central Australia.

Nyinta has spent two months working on the animation, which includes 11 of her paintings, the music of the Aboriginal Mission Block Choir of which she is a member, and her recount of the Christmas story in Pitjantatjara language.

The final painting in the series features a group of Indigenous grandmothers, aunties and mother sitting outside a humpy, recounting the Christmas story to their children.

Nyinta now lives in Alice Springs, after moving there for medical reasons, and paints with the town camp artists’ group, Tangentyere.

A painting of two women in the bush.

One of artists’ project staff, Jasmine Crea, says the animation is playing at several locations in Alice Springs over the festive season, including the Alice Springs Cinema and in the Todd Mall.

“I guess it’s a logical extension of traditional storytelling which is oral but animated usually with sand drawings,” she said.

“We’re hoping to provide an Indigenous voice within the CBD space, also to share with the wider population a really gorgeous, intimate story told by a Central Australian Aboriginal woman.

“It’s really an opportunity for people to be immersed in a work that combines the Christmas traditional and Central Australian Aboriginal culture.”

Two other Tangentyere artists are in the process of turning their paintings into animations about life in the town camp and winter mustering in Central Australia.