Territory Stories

Arts backbone



Arts backbone


Association of the Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists


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Association of The Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists; Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists Aboriginal Corporation; Art, Australian; Aboriginal Australians; Aboriginal Artists; Periodicals

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Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists Aboriginal Corporation

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Arts backbone


volume 15 issue 1, August 2015

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Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists Aboriginal Corporation



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It is part of reconciling the unfinished business of the legacy of Australian settlement by the British Crown. A nuanced, measured debate is required to advance these issues, to establish the parameters and protocols for jointly managing such collections and acknowledging the rights of traditional owners in respect to them. It is my hope that the British Museum and the National Museum of Australia, through this exhibition and the subsequent Encounters exhibition, will make a foundational contribution to understanding in both our countries history of attempted cultural eradication, contemporary Indigenous ownership of the material can often not be clear and we should not shy away from this. Rather, this reality must be recognised. Indigenous societies, like other societies universally, have divergent views on all things and it was not surprising that during the community consultation process many of these views were expressed. Members of the Noongar community in the south west of Western Australia said, We want the trustees of the British Museum to write to us and thank us for allowing them to be the custodians of our material. They also sought to have the material visit their community so that they could pay their respects to their ancestors, establish connections with the objects and importantly learn from them to teach their children about their cultural heritage. Traditional owners in the NSW town of Lismore were so inspired by photographs of woven baskets and designs originating from their ancestors that they developed contemporary costumes based on traditional themes and ran a successful fashion parade. The holding and displaying of these collections is far more than an institutional matter for the British Museum and the National Museum of Australia. about the richness of Indigenous culture and the wider debate about healing the past. It is my dear wish that the relationships this project has forged between Indigenous Australian communities and the two museums involved will continue and strengthen into the future to the mutual advantage of all concerned. For as enduring as Indigenous Australian civilisations continue to be, so there is an enduring need to understand and improve the relationships between Indigenous communities and cultural institutions in the 21st century. Encounters will launch at the NMA in November 2015. Revealing What is Hidden at the British Museum From 12 March to 25 May 2015 the British Museum presented Larrakitj: Aboriginal Memorial Poles by Wukun Wanambi, an exhibition of six larrakitj by Yolngu ar tist and ANKAAA Director Wukun Wanambi. The exhibition was first conceived during Wukuns 2013 visit to the British Museum alongside other Indigenous artists, all of whom were invited to create artworks in response to the museums collection as part of Encounters, a multi-year collaboration between the British Museum, the Australian National University, the National Museum of Australia and a range of Australian Indigenous communities. The exhibition features three finished larrakitj and three which show the raw bark beneath. Wukun states: The outside surface of things hides what is inside. I want to share what is hidden I have wanted to share this understanding with nonIndigenous people for a long time. Four larrakitj are owned by the British Museum and two were donated by Buku Larrnggay Mulka, Yirrkala.The larrakitj display Wanambis totem, with a design depicting schools of swarming fish, handed down to him from his father. The fish are swimming from creek to creek, river to river, searching for their destiny. Just like all these people from all over the world coming to the British Museum here. Everybody is searching for their own story. While in London Wukun attend a dinner with the Honorable Alexander Downer, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and had the opportunity to meet, and share a laugh with Prince Charles. Right: Wukun Wanambi (b. 1962), Wetjwitj (full length) 2013, earth pigment on hollow tree trunk. Photo: Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre Below: Installation view, Larrakitj: Aboriginal memorial poles by Wukun Wanambi, Room 3, The British Museum The Trustees of the British Museum Bottom: Wukun Wanambi (b. 1962), Wetjwitj (detail) 2013, earth pigment on hollow tree trunk. Photo: Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre Previous page top left: Peter Yu, Council Member and Chairman of Indigenous Reference Group, NMA, Chairman of NAILSMA Previous page centered: Shield believed to have been collected during Captain Cooks visit to Botany Bay, 1770. Mangrove bark The Trustees of the British Museum Previous page bottom right: Vincent Namatjira (b.1983), James Cook with the Declaration 2014, acrylic on canvas, South Australia Vincent Namatjira Top left: Bark painting of a barramundi. Western Arnhem Land, about 1961 The Trustees of the British Museum late 19th or early 20th century. The Trustees of the British Museum Top right: Pearl shell pendant with dancing figures. Kimberley region, Western Australia, before 1926. Pearl shell, charcoal The Trustees of the British Museum Left: Ishmael Marika and Wukun Wanambi, British Museum. Photo: Buku Larrnggay Mulka continued from page 5 Volume 15: Issue 1, August 2015 EXHIBITIONS ARTS BACKBONE 7 6 ARTS BACKBONE EXHIBITIONS/OPINION PIECE Volume 15: Issue 1, August 2015

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