INDIGENOUS_Working Voices

In this issue

Tjukurpa – handle it!

Tjukurpa – handle it. These are the words stencilled above the door into the Wati (Men’s) Studio at Mimili Maku Arts Centre in the remote community of Mimili on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. One of Robert Fielding’s early geopolitical interventions, these aerosol words mark a threshold into the space where Fielding makes art. Placed high on the lintel, the letters herald the power of the studio and acknowledge past grandmasters, as Fielding calls them, and those to come of the Mimili art movement...


Yarning with Cairns First Nations Curators’ Collective

In recent years, Cairns has blossomed as a centre for First Nations artists and curators, many of whom have migrated from Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands. Along with the growing success of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, there are increasing opportunities to show work from Far North Queensland. Artlink invited members of an emerging curatorial collective to share their insights and experiences with Hamish Sawyer, Artistic Director of NorthSite Contemporary Arts...

Mulanmali (to do over and over): Indigenous custodianship practices at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

The expanding praxes of Indigenous curatorial and conservation roles in Australian art museums is shaped by an active response to, and challenge of, power imbalances, along with the tension between who is writing history, which artists are collected, and how both are talked about and displayed in the present. We write this essay as Aboriginal relations from the Southeast region, from Ngiyampaa territory in the northwest of New South Wales (NSW), to Bundjalung and Yuin Country within the northern and southern coastal areas of NSW. We also write as a Blak curator and conservator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at one of the country’s leading and largest collecting institutions, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW)...

Ben McKeown and the films of Mark Street

Like genealogies, archives hold and hide information. They ask as many questions as they answer. In 2011 in Artlink’s Beauty + Terror issue, Daniel Browning profiled Ben McKeown’s practice when, as an emerging artist, he was awarded the Victorian Indigenous Art Award. The work in question Untitled (2011) presents a strong young man in a singlet wielding two hardwood fighting boomerangs. His Aboriginality is inferred, but his personal identity is deftly masked by the weapons. There is a sparring session underway, a flirtation, a provocation, a staging in which humour and menace play equal parts. The image entreats interpretation and deflects it. As Browning wrote, its ‘enigmatic, a question mark. But what is it trying to say?’...

Linga yarren yilwarraya dam warna-warnarram: We remember forever that from long ago (ngarranggarnin)

In August 2023, we (Ethel and Madeline) travelled to Sydney from Gija Country in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, where we met with Cate Massola whom we have worked with at the Warmun Art Centre and known for many years since. Our trip was to introduce and welcome a suite of paintings, by four generations of women in our family, to the John Olsen Gallery. The exhibition Nyoorn-nyoorn boorroorn daam bandarran (Country to canvas), consisted of works from the Estate of Madigan Thomas, made many years ago, alongside more recent paintings by younger members of the family. Through the exhibition, the past and present converged, making us think about the ways we work together...

Curtis Taylor and Natalie Scholtz: A close reading

The exhibition Past Their Flesh marked a first-time collaboration between Perth-based artists’ Natalie Scholtz and Curtis Taylor. The gathered works, primarily collaborative mixed media paintings on canvas, presented roving yet condensed post-colonial fever dreams, pulling signifiers from a locus of personal-political histories and the settler-state of Western Australia. Past Their Flesh is an encounter with the ever-morphing contours of race, gender, human and non-human beings, an imaging of the messy, fleshy spaces within shifting complexes of identity. While Scholtz has worked primarily as a painter, and Taylor as a filmmaker, multimedia and installation artist, both artists have a knack for working with potent symbols drawn from Australian imaginaries—the visions, desires, projections and containments therein, and the various escape routes that visual art might plot out. Across these works they appear to doubly-condense the embodied self within wider political and relational schemas. What follows is a close reading of several selected works from the exhibition...

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Ngurra Bayala (Country speaks) in the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (BMCC) has a long relationship with artist, educator and curator Leanne Tobin. She has been part of the art scene in the Blue Mountains prior to the Cultural Centre opening in 2012, and Rilka Oakley, Artistic Program Leader, and the BMCC team have worked with her on multiple projects as both an artist and curator. When the idea of working with the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) Sharing the National Collection initiative was put forward, alongside bringing First Nations video works into the World Heritage Interpretive Centre at BMCC, Tobin was invited to co-curate the project. She knows the Blue Mountains community and its First Nations artists; she understands First Nations practice at a local and national level and has personal connections with the artists selected...

An Aṉangu Western

Indulkana, the most eastern community in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, has a strong history of engagement, experimentation and innovation. The first wave of Iwantja’s senior artists—many of whom were among the first generation to see colonisers— expressed aspects of Aṉangu culture from before, during and after frontier conflict. Now younger generations of artists are rearticulating their culture amid the new frontier of western social influence. And hence, a new western emerges...

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