A new initiative, showcasing Indigenous Art

Posted 7 March 2019

A new initiative, showcasing Indigenous Art

Sourced Article: Discover Art Territory by Richard Watts, ArtsHub 28th February 2019. 

A living canvas over 65,000 years in the making, the Northern Territory is home to some of the nation’s most significant artists; members of the world’s oldest continual culture whose connection to Country is as deep as their art is dynamic.

From remote Aboriginal arts centres where practitioners explore ancient traditions with contemporary flair, to the electrifying performances of Yolngu hip-hop artist Baker Boy (2019’s Young Australian of the Year) the Territory’s 1.3 million square kilometres are packed with authentic and enriching experiences for the culture-hungry traveller.

Central Arrernte and Mudburra elder, Patricia Ansell Dodds, is an artist whose works have appeared everywhere from local and interstate art exhibitions to projections on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Her paintings ‘show my country and our stories through our eyes,’ she said. ‘The food: Akatjurra – bush tomato; Yalkas – bush onion; Alangkwe – bush banana; Arrutnenge – bush passionfruit; wild fig; honey ants; witchetty grubs and the women and children collecting them. Our landscapes, the ranges, the desert, the dry creek beds, the waterholes, the campfires and the ceremonies and stories that have taken place.’

While she creates exhibition-sized pieces of considerable scale, ‘I also create smaller pieces for everyday people to who would like to share in our culture,’ she added.

Sharing in the history and culture of our First Peoples is clearly significant to non-Indigenous Australians, as illustrated by a 2016 Australia Council report, which found that 92% of Australians consider Indigenous arts important to Australian culture.

The primacy of Aboriginal art across the Territory is reflected in a range of events as colourful and individual as Territorians themselves, ranging from the internationally respected Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, through to the spectacular Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, and the quirky charm of the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. In short, there’s an arts experience in the NT for every taste.

Jo Nixon, Executive Officer of Alice Springs Beanie Festival, praised the vibrancy and diversity of the Territory’s arts sector: ‘The Territory abounds with unique and incredible arts – paintings, baskets, fabrics, dancing, and music. It’s also home to utterly unique headwear: the beanie. We are full of amazing festivals, exhibitions and performances seen nowhere else in the world and the Beanie Festival highlights the amazing, vibrant culture that we love,’ Nixon told ArtsHub.

Explore the Territory Arts Trail

In this, the International Year of Indigenous Languages, visitors to the Territory can hear over 100 Aboriginal languages spoken daily.

English is the third language spoken by award-winning artist Baker Boy – who headlines the closing night of this year’s Parrtjima – A Festival in Light. Switching between English and his native tongue, Yolngu Matha, in his songs, Baker Boy’s linguistic skills are not unusual in the Territory, where the ability to speak multiple languages is often taken for granted.

By displaying his verbal dexterity in his songs, Baker Boy said he hopes to make ‘Balanda [white people] … curious about it and then learn the language so they can understand what I’m saying. Then they’ll want to learn more language and try and connect to the community – it’s like my secret way of pulling everyone together, I guess,’ the young rapper told Guardian Australia.

The Parrtjima program includes the opportunity to participate in a range of language classes, while some of the spectacular light installations at the festival also reflect the linguistic diversity of the Territory.

Sourced: ArtsHub, Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures

Rhoda Roberts AO, Parrtjima’s Indigenous creative curator, said: ‘We have looked at language, not only the mother tongues of homeland, but also how Aboriginal people use the English language and way they have created their own language. For example, the language of stockmen.

‘We have taken that voice and worked with local artists Johnny Young and David Wallace with the Tapatjatjaka Arts Centre to tell the lesser-known social history of First Nations station workers and their language of the land [in the light installation, Angkentye Stockmen Mape-kenhe – The Language of Stockmen],’ Roberts said.

From their base in Alice Springs, Desart works with 41 Aboriginal art centres – representing some 8000 artists – across the Central Desert region. The Desart team’s work culminates each year at Desert Mob, a total immersion in the artwork and stories of Aboriginal art from the desert; an exhibition, symposium, and marketplace for artists, arts workers and arts lovers alike.

The Territory Arts Trail presents a rich depth of Aboriginal arts, events and cultural experiences to explore.

Link to full article below.


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