Cannibal Story — Experimenta

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Yunkurra Billy Atkins and Sohan Ariel Hayes
Cannibal Story



Martu elder Yunkurra Billy Atkins’ collaboration with award winning animator Sohan Ariel Hayes retells an ancient story as a startling digital animation, opening the door to the past for a new generation of audiences. Yunkurra Billy Atkins is a great story-teller, sharing the dark narratives that score his country primarily through his beguiling paintings and carvings. Cannibal Story represents his first venture into animation. Kumpupirntily (Lake Disappointment) is the dangerous heart of Martu country in the Western Desert, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Yunkurra Billy Atkins describes Kumpupirntily as follows: ‘It’s dangerous, that country. I’m telling you that that cannibal mob is out there and they are no good.’

Yunkurra is a senior Martu artist and lawman from Western Australia known for his paintings and carvings. Yunkurra grew up in the country around Wiluna and holds significant knowledge about important Martu places and culture. When he was a child, Yunkurra narrowly escaped being stolen by missionaries, while his sister was taken away and her story told in the 2002 film, Rabbit-Proof Fence. 

He has been instrumental in the establishment of Martumili Artists, a collective that showcases the diversity, integrity and strength of Martu culture.

Yunkurra’s work was ‘Highly Commended’ in the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. He has held solo exhibitions at the Courthouse Arts Centre and Gallery, Port Hedland, WA and William Mora Galleries, Melbourne. In 2005 he participated in an artists’ exchange program through the Wilin Centre, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria.

Sohan Ariel Hayes works in the fields of ‘expanded and interactive cinema’, pervasive games, systems theory, locative media, animation, public art, and large-scale site-specific video installations. His practice is defined by the ability to open up pockets of wonder within the world while pushing boundaries to engage with darker sensibilities.

Hayes has worked with Perth-based pvi collective and received mentorship from British media art group Blast Theory. His work has been broadcast nationally and exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Fremantle Arts Centre, Freemantle, WA; Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), Perth; Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth; Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart; Jerwood Gallery, London, UK; TAV Gallery, Taiwan; and the Post Museum, Singapore. He has received awards from Laval Virtual, France (2011); the Freeplay Independent Game Awards, Australia (2010); the British Multimedia Industry Awards (2002); Atom Awards, Australia (2002). In 1997 Hayes received a nomination for Australian Business Arts Foundation, ‘Most Outstanding Patron of the Arts’, Western Australia.


Presented as part of: Experimenta Recharge: 6th International Biennial of Media Art, which toured Australia in 2014–2016.

The Artist
Yunkurra Billy Atkins with Sohan Ariel Hayes

Yunkurra Billy Atkins collaboration with Sohan Ariel Hayes retells an ancient story as a startling digital animation.