Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia
Fifteen years ago I coordinated an exhibition of Indigenous Australian art for display in Harare (back when I used to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). It was an amazing collection of stunning pieces. It was beautiful, and accessible and very, very safe. It was the sort of art that foreigners, and Australians have come to expect when they think of Indigenous art. So I confess that when I was invited to attend the opening of the Australian High Commission's exhibition, Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia, I went along expecting something similar.
I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised, and incredibly proud.
This exhibition is a hard-hitting social commentary on the experience of Indigenous Australians. Yes there is a dot point painting, except this one depicts the forced removal of children from their families. The other pieces explore issues such as cultural clashes, the appropriation of voice and the struggle for a sense of place.
I was proud of the exhibition not because it paints Australia - both historically or at present - in a particularly pleasant light, but because the issues are being discussed and because the Australian Government itself is prepared to fund an international tour of an exhibition that shows our wounds and scars to the world. As Nyani commented last night, "that's democracy for you".
I hope the exhibition serves as the starting point for many conversations around the world; both of indigenous issues and of the value to be derived from supporting raw and honest cultural expression.
The exhibition is being hosted by the Alliance Francaise in Accra and runs until 21 July.