This week celebrates Indigenous people, culture and history in the land we call Australia. This year’s theme recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were custodians of this land millennia before the arrival of the colonisers of the 18th Century.
This year I’ve been reading a lot more books by Indigenous writers and trying to understand more about the culture and traditions of the Ngunnawal people, who are the traditional owners of Canberra and the surrounding country.
I’m also trying to bring Indigenous culture, people and challenges into my stories, while being careful not stray into areas I shouldn’t and not falling for stereotypes that are harmful to our First Nations people. (I’ll also be enlisting sensitivity readers to help challenge any residual biases or misrepresentations.)
One of the best places to learn about Indigenous art is the National Gallery of Australia, which has permanent Indigenous galleries showcasing the history of modern Indigenous art in Australia (of course, Aboriginal art goes back at least 40,000 years on this continent – the most astonishing thought for white people, whose art traditions are “only” tens of thousands of years old), as well as a new exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art.
My main interest is in art by Indigenous women, which has blossomed over the past forty years to become some of the most exciting contemporary art being produced in Australia (and probably the world).
Below are some of my favourites from today’s visit.
From the NGA site: “This large-scale installation tells the ancestral story of the Seven Sisters Dreaming, using sculptural forms woven from materials including tjanpi (the Pitjantjatjara word for grass) and raffia. In the Dreaming story, the seven sisters are pursued across the land by a man called Nyiru, or Nyirunya. He chases the sisters up into the sky and down to earth again, intent on marrying the eldest of the women. Eventually, the sisters are transformed into the constellation of Pleiades and Nyiru assumes the form of Orion.”
If you are lucky enough to live in Canberra or visit our beautiful city, make sure you visit the National Gallery of Australia and spend some time in the Indigenous Art Galleries.