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The world is hungry for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Far and wide, Art Centres are showcasing First Nations culture by way of critically acclaimed collaborations and exhibitions. 

Words by Camilla Wagstaff, March 2023

Cover image: Artists Keturah Zimran and Roseranna Larry in Paris, Image Courtesy of Ikuntji Artists. 

Ikuntji Artists strike a pose on European catwalks

Last year, Ikuntji Artists presented a series of fashion shows in Europe. It kicked off at London Pacific Fashion Week in a collaboration with Raw Cloth Darwin, which saw Ikuntji Artists’ designs make their way down runways in London, Dublin and Paris.

Participating artists included Keturah Zimran, Leonie Kamutu, Mavis Marks and Mitjili Napurrula, as well as designs by the late Kumuntjai Nampitjinpa Dixon, Kumuntjai Napanangka Jack.
Keturah Zimran travelled to Europe for the shows. Keturah paints her grandmother’s and her mother’s stories, fusing them into her bold contemporary works.  

“It felt to me as though they both came along this trip and were both watching over me, guiding me through,” she says. For Keturah, her collection designs were created with input from her ancestors. “My ancestors made me choose the stories we presented. They made sure we were safe the whole trip.”

2021 saw the launch of an Ikuntji collection of textiles and homewares developed by IDAIA, a French-Australian social enterprise promoting contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practice. The collection was made as part of Australia Now for the iconic Parisian department store BHV Marais.
The launch at BHV was part of the department store’s special event Couleurs Australie – A chromatic journey, organised in partnership with Tourism Australia and the Australian Embassy in Paris. The showcase saw the department store place Australian First Nations culture at its heart. It presented works from the exhibition Piinpi: Contemporary Australian Indigenous Fashion curated by southern Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson alongside an Australian pop-up café, and a program of workshops and meetings. Ikuntji artworks were also hung in Paris’ Australian Embassy as part of the project.
The collaboration has sparked an ongoing partnership for Ikuntji Artists, with other projects in Paris being planned.

Image: Buku Art Centre. Installation view “Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Australian Bark Painting from Yirrkala” at The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth. Photo Courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.

Buku on tour in the USA

Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre in Yirrkala is currently touring Maḏayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Bark Painting from Yirrkala, across five North American venues until 2025.

Maḏayin is the result of a collaboration between Buku and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia, which began in 1995. Kluge-Ruhe is the only museum outside Australia dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Curated by Yolŋu Elders, the 90 iconic paintings in the show present a comprehensive history of art practice from the Yirrkala region, with rare and special works dating back to first contact.
The seeds that blossomed into Maḏayin were planted in 2015, when Yolŋu leader Djambawa Marawili AM visited the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection as a resident artist through a partnership with Australia Council for the Arts. Djambawa was surprised and proud to encounter so many works from his homelands at Kluge-Ruhe, and saw an opportunity to showcase these to a wider audience.

“It’s really important to show those old paintings and to recognize that we Yolŋu have enduring patterns that connect us to our Country,” Djambawa told Kluge-Ruhe.

 

“I’m really proud to make the connection to America. The art went first – all those old paintings in the gallery. What follows is reconciliation – and passing the knowledge to America through our art. Because art is really important to us. It represents our soul and our mind.”

Those further afield can interact with the show by way of an interactive website. Read more about the exhibition origins and check out the experience here. Buku also recently held commercial shows with JGM Gallery in London and Aboriginal Signature gallery in Belgium. 

Image Credit: Buku Art Centre. Installation view “Madayin: Eight Decades of Aboriginal Australian Bark Painting from Yirrkala” at The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth. Photo Courtesy of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre.

APY in Asia

Over the last three years, senior APY artists have worked together on a suite of, three-by-three metre works collectively titled Ngura Pulka. APY artists launched nine of these epic paintings at Bangkok Art Biennale 2022 CHAOS : CALM late last year. Works from Ngura Pulka will be on view to Australian audiences at the National Gallery of Australia come June 2023. 

“Artists out here are known for being brave and adventurous,” says Pitjantjatjara artist Yaritji Young. “We push new ideas while still protecting and keeping our Tjukurpa strong for our children and grandchildren.”

Other recent APY outings in Asia have included in the group show 경로를 재탐색합니다 UN/LEARNING AUSTRALIA, which commemorated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and South Korea. Co-curated by Seoul Museum of Art and Artspace Sydney, this group exhibition invited audiences to examine privilege, dominance and power from different perspectives. 

Participating APY artists included Zaachariaha Fielding, Robert Fielding (Mimili Maku Arts), Iwantja Women’s Collaborative, Iwantja Men’s Collaborative, Kunmanara (Peter) Mungkuri and Vincent Namatjira (Iwantja Arts) as well as Mrs Norris (Kaltjiti Arts). 

 

Image Credit:  Installation view at BACC. Courtesy APY artists and Bangkok Art Biennale. Photo by Preecha Pattaraumpornchai.

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See you in August!

Save the date for the 17th Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair:

11-13 August 2023

 

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Photo by Wayne Quilliam