Alec Baker Australian, Yankunytajtjara, b. 1932
Alec Baker is an elder and respected Tjilpi of Indulkana and the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands. Born in 1932 at Shirley Well, Alec was raised in a traditional way of life with his family, in the rugged bushland and desert regions of the eastern Yankunytjatjara region of the APY lands. Today, Alec is recognised as a respected stockman, cultural lore man, and contemporary artist.
Alec’s parents and ancestors are from the Iltar and Kunnamatta regions, and he is part of the Yankunytajtjara language group. Alec’s knowledge of the land and his exceptional bush skills have been acquired from a lifetime of experience of living and growing within the land; the stories of his country passed onto him from elders and family.
"I grew up and was born in Shirley Well. My mama (father's) country was Iltar Way, strong country there for law and business. My mother's country is Kunnamatta. I spent my time as a little boy at Granite Downs. I went horse riding, bush camping, and chased bullocks.”
“I was a stockman for a long time, we were all working really hard. I was riding in front mustering bullocks and breaking horses. I did lots of jobs at the station too, but always riding, doing stock work out in the country. We’ve been teaching people the stories we have, and about our culture, and knowledge from our stockmen days
After retiring from stockmen work, Alec settled at the Indulkana community in the early 1960’s with his young family, they lived in a small wiltja (hut made from found objects) by the side of the Iwantja creek. It was he and friend, fellow artist Sadie Singer that travelled through the red desert (before the Stuart highway existed) to Adelaide city where they petitioned the Australian government for assistance and funding in establishing the art centre where Alec still works today.
Alec’s detailed paintings reflect topographic map-like imagery. The canvases present layers of colour, and dotting which veils any sacred images, or sites. There is a strong sense of place within his paintings; a defined pathway, bold footprints of an emu, a sense of water holes, stoic trees and sheltering campsites, are scattered across his canvas. There is a bold resolve to Alec’s work that engages viewers and offers up an invitation of introduction to discover his stories; to follow the pathways and song-lines within his landscape.
“I’m thinking when I making the painting, how to make him a good painting, a strong one. Where to put the kalaya (emus), kungkas (women), punu (trees), tjukula (waterholes)… Sometimes I’m thinking about the colours – dark ones and light ones, sometimes I’m just thinking; from memory all the country I’ve been at, all the stories I have.”