'We have survived'
South-east Australian Aboriginal art exhibitions since 1988
by Fran Edmonds
Abstract

This paper focuses on several Aboriginal art exhibitions held since 1988 and includes a broad discussion of participating artists and their artworks. Taking this broad approach, rather than discussing individual artworks, illustrates the interconnectivity of art and culture and the importance of applying an integrated worldview to the exhibition process. Aboriginal-determined art exhibitions are part of an ongoing 'culture-making', where art, history and culture are made and remade as new ways of experiencing Aboriginality.[1] They have influenced a paradigm shift beyond the confining Western categories applied to Aboriginal people and their art styles, forcing a rethinking of the categories of fine art and high culture.[2]

Aboriginal art in 1988
In 1988 many Australians celebrated 200 years of European occupation. For Aboriginal people, the bicentenary provided a stage to reassert their presence. Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus (1949–1996) remarked that:

1988 represented the two hundredth anniversary of the so-called discovery of the Australian continent. Aboriginal people were alternatively puzzled and indignant, pointing out that they had been here for many tens of thousands of years.[3]

Although Aboriginal people were involved in official bicentennial activities, a number of the associated events, including art exhibitions, were viewed by some Aboriginal people as tokenistic renderings of Aboriginal Australia, rarely representing the diversity of the Aboriginal community or individual concerns. Again, Lin Onus commented:

The dominant culture sought Aboriginal participation in the bicentennial in one way or another. A series of Aboriginal art postage stamps was commissioned, large touring exhibitions were organised. One objective, no doubt, was to signal to the outside world the erroneous notion that white Australia lived in harmony with its indigent population. Many artists were heard to complain when they discovered that works that had been acquired at another time were turning up in some form of bicentennial exhibition, thereby implying that the artist approved of this situation.[4]

In contrast, the protest march held in Sydney on 26 January 1988 by groups of Aboriginal people and supporters from around the nation saw Aboriginal concerns regarding the effects of European occupation reach a wider audience. 'We have survived', became the catchcry, and was the theme for a series of posters made by Aboriginal artists, including Lin Onus and another Melbourne-based artist, Karen Casey.[5] Other artworks were also displayed during the year. Museum curator Margo Neale commented that the chosen media were the most 'democratic' used in the production of 'popular culture', including cartoons, printmaking and photography.[6] Indeed, such media allowed Aboriginal people to have some control of their artwork and to ensure its accessibility in a market economy at a time when issues of copyright were becoming apparent. This arose because designs 'stolen' from Aboriginal art, without the approval of the artist or their community, were increasingly incorporated into marketable products to meet a growing tourist demand for Aboriginal images.[7] Throughout 1988, Aboriginal artists promoted contemporary Aboriginal art as part of a living culture. These included art exhibitions held at the first Aboriginal-controlled arts co-operative, Boomalli, which had been established the year before in Sydney. Such events provided many south-east Australian Aboriginal artists with opportunities to articulate for the first time their culture and history in a public forum.[8]

Karen Casey, The Coroners Hotel, poster produced as part of the 'We have survived' series 1988

The Coroners Hotel, poster produced as part of the 'We have survived' series, 1988
by Karen Casey
National Museum of Australia

Art projects and protests initiated by the Aboriginal community emphasised Aboriginal survival despite 200 years of colonisation. In opposition to the rhetoric around 'Australia Day',[9] Aboriginal people adopted the term 'Invasion Day' and asserted that 'White Australia has a Black History'.[10] Although 1988 registered an awakening to these issues, Aboriginal people in the south-east and their art and culture were marginalised by a public preoccupation with authenticity and notions of what constituted 'real' Aboriginal people. In this region, the early imposition of assimilation policies had created a 'hidden history' that hindered the recognition of contemporary art.

This article's approach

This article discusses the development of art exhibitions among Aboriginal communities in south-east Australia, focusing on Victoria and the border country of New South Wales and South Australia.[11] While the difficulties Aboriginal people face as a result of colonisation are similar throughout Australia, the events that shaped the development of art practices in the south-east are associated with individual and collective memories and experiences from that region. These assist with telling stories that reflect the impact of colonisation since 1834 on representations of Aboriginality in that area.[12] Apart from the work of the anthropologist Carol Cooper and art historians Sylvia Kleinert and Donna Leslie, few historical accounts of Aboriginal art practices in the south-east are available.[13] Changes and adaptations in south-east Aboriginal art since colonisation reveal that art practices have provided ways for Aboriginal people to 'speak back' to the dominant culture.[14] However, it is only since the bicentenary that Aboriginal people in this region have had increased opportunities to determine representations of themselves and their culture in public museum and art gallery spaces.

The influence of contemporary Aboriginal artists, curators and arts managers has been crucial to the development of recent art practices and new representations of Aboriginality in exhibitions. These works reflect an Aboriginal ontology, where art is a manifestation of being Aboriginal, inseparable from other aspects of culture, yet dynamic and diverse.[15]

Hybridity, Aboriginal art exhibitions and the contact zone

The works of contemporary Aboriginal artists provide different views and interpretations of Aboriginal art, history and culture from those of Western art history and ethnography. Their more inclusive approach aligns with that of the cultural theorist Homi Bhabha, who argues that contact between cultures results in fluid and ambivalent 'cultural difference'. This is ultimately manifested in a 'Third Space' — a hybrid space between two cultures — where culture is never pure or original, but is influenced by other cultural meanings and identities.[16]

Bhabha's conceptualisation of hybridity is an endeavour to assert the agency of colonised groups oppressed by colonial regimes. Rather than a 'whitewashing' of the continuing power imbalances that exist for Aboriginal people, and specifically for Aboriginal artists from the south-east, Bhabha's notion of hybridity allows for more vigorous interpretations of cultural identity. This 'hybridity thinking'[17] provides a lens through which to view the progressions and adaptations south-east Australian Aboriginal people have made in their art practices and in the staging of art exhibitions, as they intersect with developing ideas about their own identity and their place in the world. It also opposes constricting and essentialist representations, where purity of culture is equated with authenticity.

Recent south-east Aboriginal art contests colonialist assumptions about south-east Australian Aboriginal culture as inauthentic and emphasises the complex history of colonial encounters. Exhibitions reflect new approaches to work in the 'contact zone', a notion proposed by American anthropologist Mary Louise Pratt to address the power imbalances that arise when people who are historically and geographically separated as a result of the colonial encounter 'come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations with each other'.[18] Anthropologist James Clifford applied the notion of the 'contact zone' to museums' collections and exhibitions, suggesting that they become 'part of an ongoing historical, political, moral relationship' between the culture that produced the objects and those outside the culture who see them.[19]

In this way, contemporary Aboriginal art in south-eastern Australia poses a challenge to Western notions of high art and culture. The artworks, accompanying text and associated performances that are sometimes connected with these exhibitions create new 'contact zones'. These transform perceptions about Aboriginal art and culture by adopting techniques and strategies that are ambivalent and fluid, reflecting the mixed heritage and experiences of the participants. Pratt refers to this process as 'transculturation', which results from the interactions between the colonised and the coloniser, 'often in highly asymmetrical relations of dominance and subordination — like colonialism'.[20] Transculturation shapes cultural identities through interactions and exchanges with others.

Following the bicentenary, exhibitions created by Aboriginal artists became spaces of transculturation. These spaces assert Aboriginal 'ways of knowing',[21] in contrast to the historical hierarchy associated with ethnographic and fine art museums. Such ideals assisted with the cataloguing and labelling of artefacts and artworks for display.[22] By infiltrating these spaces today, Aboriginal people are using the colonisers' institutions to reframe, reconstruct and reclaim their culture in new ways, reconceptualising 'hybridity' as a positive assertion of identity in the twenty-first century.

In this context, hybridity, art and culture, as cultural theorist Nikos Papastergiadis argues, are in 'a reflexive process that is co-constitutive'.[23] For many Aboriginal artists their art practices are interconnected with ideas about what it is to be an Aboriginal person. These ideas connect the past with the present, and fall outside Western art history or ethnography. As Papastergiadis acknowledges, hybrid art is not easily 'classified within the conventional art historical categories ... there is a lag in the conceptual development of the vocabulary for representing the global context of art, and a reluctance to engage with the political forces that shape the flows of exchanges'.[24] Objects viewed by outsiders as material culture are also 'art', reflecting an Aboriginal ontology where 'art and culture are one'.[25] Thus, south-east Australian Aboriginal art is both cross-cultural and culturally specific.

Finally, conceptualising Aboriginal art exhibitions in the contact zone opens the way to more dynamic and less restrictive articulations of Aboriginality. By providing greater opportunties for Aboriginal people to determine their identity and representations of their culture and stories, these exhibitions have the potential to advance the struggles for 'the right to be different', equality and social justice.[26]

New Aboriginal art and ideas of 'race'
By the end of the nineteenth century, social Darwinist theories were manifested in racist attempts to control, classify and label Aboriginal people according to their degree of Aboriginal blood. Victoria was the first colony to adopt restrictive assimilation policies designed to 'breed the colour out'.[27] Attempts at eliminating Aboriginal culture also involved restricting cultural practices, including the speaking of languages and the performance of ceremonies.[28] In spite of these endeavours, Aboriginal people who were living on reserves were encouraged to continue skills such as basket-making and possum-skin cloak production. These were viewed as both economically viable and socially beneficial.[29]

Adaptations in the material culture produced on Aboriginal reserves were not new. Following contact with Europeans, it appears that Aboriginal art had adapted new designs that included figurative images that could be interpreted by those inside and outside Aboriginal culture, in contrast with 'traditional' linear and patterned design work which had internal meanings for specific Aboriginal groups.[30] Later, European styles and forms were incorporated in cultural material made for sale to Europeans, especially for tourist enterprises operating out of Aboriginal reserves, and then from the 1950s in metropolitan Melbourne.[31] Lin Onus reflected on the contribution of these new art styles to cultural maintenance:
Artistic and cultural practices declined dramatically, yet in isolated pockets some traditions survived. Inspired principally by the need to earn some extra money some groups and individuals produced boomerangs and other artefacts for the tourist market. In an ironical fashion, the area of the market that is widely perceived as the traditional enemy of fine art managed to keep the threads of a few ancient traditions intact.[32]

Although these adapted products were rarely considered as 'real' or 'true' Aboriginal material culture, this hybridised art illustrates a capacity for change, highlighting Bhabha's ideas of mimicry as a strategy for cultural survival. Under a colonial regime, where cultural practices and their meanings were severely disrupted,[33] Aboriginal people sought alternative ways of sustaining their own culture, while mimicking the dominant culture, and to use both in new ways. Mimicry in this context subtly subverts the coloniser's power; as Bhabha contends, it is both 'resemblance and menace'. It simultaneously embraces and denounces the coloniser in order to disrupt the authority of the colonial gaze.[34] However, within the context of colonial society, these new ways of creating material culture simultaneously sustained and disrupted cultural practices, resulting in adaptations in cultural practices that were often viewed as examples of the 'degeneration and weakening of a racial stock'.[35]

Reclaiming the hybrid
In the late twentieth century, changes in government policies concerning Aboriginal affairs, including the overturning of the assimilation policy from 1967,[36] provided incentives for the political mobilisation of Aboriginal groups in Victoria. Many, inspired by the Afro-American 'Black Power' movement of the 1960s, lobbied for Aboriginal self-determination. By the 1970s, an increasingly Western-educated body of Aboriginal people were publicly questioning the fiction of Aboriginal culture as static and 'primitive', repositioning Aboriginal identity as dynamic and diverse. Lin Onus was among this group, who:
broke upon the political scene in the late 1960s. Many were young, many were articulate, but they were all angry. It is against this background that the art movement in these regions evolved.[37]
Despite positive moves towards self-determination, Aboriginal people in the south-east were rarely considered authentic by mainstream Australia. While artists from Central Australia were receiving international recognition for their contemporary acrylic on canvas representations of their culture,[38] artists in the south-east were excluded from the 'high art' world.[39] Their work remained marginalised as either tourist kitsch or as a degraded hybridised style indicative of the success of assimilation.[40] These categories continued to reflect a Western art history preoccupied with 'pigeonholing'. [41] This approach neglected the impact of colonisation on south-east Australian Aboriginal culture and favoured non-Aboriginal ideas about Aboriginal society.[42]

In the 1980s Aboriginal artists in the south-east increasingly emphasised their own Aboriginality, producing work that reflected their experiences of being Aboriginal. Some artists began to incorporate elements in their work that would assist them to reconnect with their cultural heritage and to explore issues of dispossession and racism. By 1986 Lin Onus had adopted a cross-cultural style, in which European and traditional Aboriginal designs from Arnhem Land converged. Onus described this style as the 'jigsaw of the dispossessed', indicating the loss of cultural connection many felt.[43] His landscapes refer to his Scottish heritage and his connection to Country as a Yorta Yorta man; the overlaid rarrk (cross-hatching) designs represent the exchange networks operating between Aboriginal groups, and emphasise Onus's relationship with the Yolngu artist, Jack Wunuwun.[44] With this cross-cultural style, Onus's work illustrates his multicultural background and reclaims 'hybridity' as a positive expression of cultural transformation.

Ray Thomas, a Gunnai artist from Gippsland in Victoria, who had been mentored by Onus from the mid-1970s, explains the impact that Onus's adoption of two distinct art styles had on him as an artist:
Lin developed a hybrid style with his own work ... By combining the two cultures, traditional Aboriginal art and the Western landscape genre together, [this] took his art career to another level. So I was thinking how I could incorporate that concept into my work. I came up with this, like a little signature thing now recognised in my work, which is a tear ... with the landscape in the front, with the corners peeling down and then I've got the traditional [Gunnai] line work behind it, so I'm saying 'Well this is a different landscape and this is our traditional culture, our artworks from that area', so I began to paint with more integrity in my work. Even though I didn't know a lot about what the designs meant.[45]
For Thomas, the adoption of his own hybrid style required a concerted attempt to rediscover elements of his culture, which had been disrupted following colonisation, and to find alternative ways of incorporating 'traditional' Gunnai designs into his work.[46]

More open museological practices adopted from the 1980s, which provided Aboriginal people with access to collections of their ancestors' material culture, inspired these alternative art styles.[47] Thomas explains:
late '80s somebody said 'Oh you should come into the Museum in Melbourne ... because there's these shields ... from Gippsland ...' I went in there and ... had access to all these shields [and] it was like switching on the light. 'Cause I thought well this is traditional from my area. They were absolutely stunning design, the lineal work. Fine etched line work into the wood ...

That just completely changed my thinking about my art and myself as an artist ... I'd found something which was mine. Part of my culture, my identity and who I am and from my area.[48]

The use of traditional Gunnai designs in Thomas's paintings highlights the importance of allowing artists to access material culture held by museums, as inspiration for contemporary art, but also as a means for people to reconnect with their past and their Aboriginality. James Clifford's work on museums as contact zones advocates more inclusive approaches between Indigenous peoples and museums. He endorses multi-layered approaches that implement consultative and reciprocal arrangements between Indigenous peoples and museums in the management, care and display of their collections. This is just part of a process towards shifting the power imbalances historically associated with museums as elite repositories of 'high culture'. As Clifford argues, museums as contact zones consist of ongoing contestations, which depend on decentring the hierarchy of established museums and on negotiating ways of inclusion that are flexible and responsive to local contexts.[49]

Aratjara: Art of the First Australians (1993)
National Land Council Poster, © Lin Onus /Licensed by Viscopy 2010
National Land Council Poster
© Lin Onus /Licensed by Viscopy 2010

At the same time as natural history and ethnographic museums were providing Aboriginal artists with access to their collections, these institutions were also reconsidering their representations of Aboriginal art and culture.[50] In the lead-up to and immediately following the bicentenary these trends converged. By the 1990s more Aboriginal people were seeking to present their art and culture themselves, without reference to imposed ideologies, categories and academic discourses.

In the early 1990s there was heightened political activity concerning Aboriginal rights, including the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the establishment of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the rejection of terra nullius in the Mabo decision, and the Native Title Act 1993.[51]

These developments highlighted the position of Aboriginal people as colonial subjects, unseen by the dominant culture and imagined as people with little control over their lives.[52] The growing recognition of Aboriginal people in the political landscape reinforced the legacy of Australia's colonial past and its continuing effects on the Aboriginal population. In this context the long awaited international exhibition Aratjara: Art of the First Australians in 1993 was timely. Aratjara grew out of the discomfort many Aboriginal people felt before and during the bicentennial year regarding tokenistic and stereotyped ideas of their culture. The Aratjara exhibition repositioned Aboriginal culture within the context of a country attempting to come to grips with its past.[53]

Between April 1993 and May 1994 Aratjara travelled to Denmark, Germany and England. It had taken eight years to produce, indicating the difficulties that the organisers, Gary Foley, an Aboriginal activist and former director of the Aboriginal Arts Board, and Swiss artist Bernard Luthi had encountered in securing support, venues and funding.[54] The exhibition attracted Aboriginal artists and curators, including Lin Onus, who worked in collaboration with non-Aboriginal scholars to exhibit a diversity of art styles from around the country. Aboriginal artists communicated their stories and ideas directly to the audience, reinterpreting the restricting binary categories of 'traditional' versus 'urban', and representing the contemporaneity and survival of Aboriginal culture and art practices.[55] At the exhibition's opening in Denmark, Gary Foley reinforced these sentiments by declaring 'We have survived, We are here'.[56]

Aratjara became one of the first exhibitions to challenge the preconceptions that Aboriginal art belonged only in ethnographic museums, or was tourist or folk art. It contested anthropological and art historical concepts about Aboriginal art, culture and history.[57] By adopting an inclusive attitude, the organisers challenged the idea that 'only certain types of designs were acceptable as Indigenous art'.[58] They suggested new ways of understanding Aboriginal art by displaying diverse styles, including contemporary work from the south-east, giving them equal exposure to more 'traditional' and 'exotic' styles from the north, which had by the late 1980s become, as Larrakia artist and scholar Gary Lee pronounced, 'highly prized (and priced)' items in museums and galleries.[59]

Lin Onus's chapter in the Aratjara catalogue, 'Southwest, Southeast Australia and Tasmania', presented artists' histories and art practices in terms of the individuals' experiences and their chosen media. Onus discussed the range of art practices in the south, while revealing the ongoing collective social and emotional effects of colonisation. South-east Aboriginal artists, such as Les Griggs (Gunditjmara) and Karen Casey (Tasmania) and the emerging artist Treahna Hamm (Yorta Yorta), had opportunities to exhibit their work internationally. Works by the nineteenth-century artists Tommy McRae, a Kwat Kwat man from north-east Victoria, and William Barak, a Wurundjeri elder from near Melbourne, were also included. This allowed contemporary pieces to be juxtaposed against styles which incorporated more 'traditional' representations of south-east Australian Aboriginal life. By providing alternative representations of Aboriginal culture via a range of aesthetics, Aratjara challenged the stereotype of Aboriginal art as representative of a 'primitive' people.[60] Despite differences in styles, the art converged around similar themes including land, kinship and survival, which allowed artists to 'speak back' to the dominant culture about their own identities. Although as diverse as the art itself, these themes remained distinctly Aboriginal.

Aratjara was the first exhibition to give a primary place to Aboriginal voices in representing their art,[61] but it was not the first international Aboriginal art exhibition.[62] Earlier exhibitions included the acclaimed Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, which toured the United States in 1988–89. While Dreamings aimed to highlight Australian culture by focusing on the growing phenomenon of contemporary Aboriginal art, the exhibition itself featured artwork from more remote areas of the country. [63] Despite the curators acknowledging Aboriginal art from urbanised areas in the exhibition catalogue, no urban-based artwork was exhibited. The curators reinforced prevailing ideas about urban-based Aboriginals as second-rate artists when they declared, 'The number of Aboriginal artists in the cities is still small, and in quantity and quality their work, on average, does not compare with that of people from remote areas'.[64] This exclusionary approach to south-east Aboriginal culture and identity denied the authenticity of urban- and regional-based art and artists and contributed to audiences' misconceptions about 'authentic' Aboriginal culture.[65]

In contrast, Aratjara was pivotal in revealing the importance of providing Aboriginal people with opportunities to control their own exhibitions, in challenging anthropological and historical ideas about culture and contesting Western approaches to art history and curatorship. Aratjara is an example of a 'hybrid space', where contemporary Aboriginal art practices contribute to cultural survival. Aratjara demonstrated the significance of Aboriginal art exhibitions in providing a discourse for the right to be different.[66]

By consciously intervening in the colonial process of the exhibition, Aboriginal artists, curators and writers, through mimicking and adopting many of the conventions of the dominant culture, have endeavoured to create better representations of themselves, their art practices and their histories.[67] In the transformative world of the exhibition as contact zone, new local transcultural exhibitionary practices, influenced by the success of Aratjara, found a place in south-east Australia, where they continue to present alternative realities via Aboriginal voices.

Can't See for Lookin' (1993)

Can't See for Lookin' — Koori Women Artists Educating was an exhibition conceived by Maree Clarke, a Yorta Yorta woman, and her brother Peter Clarke. The title of the exhibition referred to the unseen nature of Aboriginal culture in the south-east and the significant role of Aboriginal women in maintaining cultural practices.[68] It allowed female artists to reclaim their histories by contesting misrepresentations of their gender and role within Aboriginal society. The artists' alternative discourses also contested the view that real Aboriginal art was by 'blackfellas' from remote locations.[69]

While some of the artists had previous experience of exhibiting their work in high art contexts, others had rarely had the opportunity for their work to reach a wider audience. The exhibition featured 12 women artists, including elders Connie Hart (Gunditjmara) and Rachel Mullet (Gunnai/Monaro), and was held at the National Gallery of Victoria in June 1993.

Like Aratjara, the exhibition represented the richness of Aboriginal culture and art practices in the south-east. Can't See for Lookin' included artists who resided in Victoria, but whose traditional Country lay outside the region. Some had grown up knowing about their heritage, while others had little cultural connection with their communities. However, general themes emerged that revealed the reclamation of cultural practices, respect for the land, and affirmation of Aboriginal identity. The artworks ranged from reinterpretations of traditional techniques and materials, such as Connie Hart's weavings and Maree Clarke's echidna quill jewellery, to more contemporary styles, such as Donna Leslie's (Gamileroi, New South Wales) paintings and Destiny Deacon's and Ellen José's (Torres Strait) photographs. Some artists, such as Treahna Hamm and Lisa Kennedy (Trawlwoolway, Tasmania) explored ways of reconnecting to culture, while others, like Karen Casey and Gayle Maddigan (Wergaia/Wemba Wemba, Victoria), focused on representations of discrimination, injustice, and survival.[70] The exhibition blurred the boundaries between art and craft, while remaining consistent with Aboriginal ideas about the continuing connection between art, culture and history. As Treahna Hamm insists, 'doing artwork [is] just another part of that chain and making your culture strong'.[71]

The catalogue presented biographical discussions of the artwork by the artists, rather than ethnographic descriptions by white 'experts'. These allowed the 12 artists to describe firsthand the impact of their art on their cultural identity. An educational toolkit designed to accompany the exhibition was produced in collaboration with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated and the Women's Art Register. The kit recognises the prominent role of Aboriginal women in the education and socialisation of children in their communities.[72]

The intercultural nature of the project demonstrated that when 'intersecting interests' coincide they can provide a space in which Aboriginal histories can be shared and exchanged. The opportunity to work with and in mainstream institutions allowed artists to articulate in ways that could 'strengthen their own sense of autonomy'.[73] By exhibiting their work collectively and on their own terms the women revealed the intersections and diversity of Aboriginal art, culture and history, exposing the hidden histories of Aboriginal people in the south-east.

We Iri We Homeborn (1996)
Perhaps one of the most energetic attempts to raise the profile of Aboriginal artists in Victoria was the We Iri We Homeborn exhibition. This project again was managed by Maree Clarke, with the Aboriginal multimedia artist Kimba Thompson. In early 1996, the women collected artwork from over 100 Aboriginal people around Victoria in a 'two-tonne truck'. Prior to the exhibition much of the artwork had been seen only in the domestic sphere, as decorative or functional pieces. They were retrieved by Clarke and Thompson from people's walls, wardrobes and underneath beds.[74] We Iri We Homeborn exposed the breadth and depth of art in the Aboriginal community in Victoria. Although the work collected by the women for the exhibition was wide-ranging, including paintings, surfboards, ceramics, painted silks, photographic images of people and text work, it revealed cultural maintenance on a large scale, where art signified persisting Aboriginal cultural networks across the state, and as something that continued in the everyday. The art shown in the We Iri exhibition signifies 'a space of transculturation, wherein members of subordinated or marginal groups selectively use materials transmitted by a dominant or metropolitan culture to invent unique new forms'.[75]

We Iri We Homeborn was exhibited at five sites in Melbourne in July 1996 in celebration of the National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration (NAIDOC week). It reflected the diversity of south-east Aboriginal lifestyles, confronting mainstream perceptions of Aboriginal people as assimilated and highlighting the survival of Aboriginality in the region.[76]

As in Can't see for Lookin', emerging and established artists were represented in the exhibition. For many it was the first time their work was exhibited in public. It launched the careers of Yorta Yorta artist Lee Darroch and the Gunditjmara/Kerrae Wurrong artist Vicki Couzens, whose works reflect the relationship between art practices and their culture. Couzens explains:
my first piece that went in the We Iri We Homeborn 'Big Shots' exhibition was a very personal piece it was actually part of my own very personal spiritual journey and it was like an initiatory work and I'd gone through a level of learning and I called it Wirreeyaar, which is a woman's spirit and it was actually a vision I had But it's a lizard-kind of woman thing and there's this big round womb area, the fire in the belly kind of stuff On the bottom of it — it was actually on canvas, and I stitched it all — it had wooden bits I found, they were all found objects that I'd collected over the years. I hung them and cut holes in it and stitched them on So it's all about that, land and who we are and where you come from.[77]
Reclaiming possum skin cloaks (1999–2006)
Image of Tooloyn Koortakay exhibit
The 'Tooloyn Koortakay' exhibit in the First Australians gallery, National Museum of Australia

photograph by Dragi Markovic
National Museum of Australia

The involvement of Aboriginal people in public museums and galleries as curators, and through artists' collaborations in the design of exhibitions, has revealed the history of Aboriginal Australians from their own perspectives, the impact of colonisation on their cultural practices, and alternative views about their culture and heritage. For south-east artists, the capacity to reclaim their culture through processes of transculturation has also been boosted by opportunities to research artefacts made by their ancestors that are held in museum collections. This is demonstrated in the possum-skin cloak story.

In 1999, three Victorian Aboriginal women artists, Vicki Couzens, Treahna Hamm and Lee Darroch, viewed two extant nineteenth-century possum-skin cloaks held at Museum Victoria: one from Lake Condah, in south-west Victoria; the other from Maiden's Punt, near Echuca. This initial sighting inspired them to remake the cloaks, drawing on careful research and new technologies. The replica cloaks, along with other artworks inspired by the cloaks, were acquired by the National Museum of Australia in 2003 for its permanent collection. The Museum's possum-skin cloak collection is known as Tooloyn Koortakay (Squaring Skins for Rugs), and forms the basis of a permanent exhibit of the same name in the Museum's First Australians gallery.[78]

Other possum-skin cloaks and associated artworks, including etchings, pastel drawings and weavings have also been made since Tooloyn Koortakay was launched. Three new cloaks were exhibited in Biganga: Keeping Tradition (Barmah Forest Possum-Skin Cloak) at Bunjilaka, Museum Victoria, in 2005–06, as part of the Commonwealth Games program. A smaller exhibition held at the Koorie Heritage Trust in October 2005, called Gunya Winyarr (Women's Cloaks), featured cloaks and artworks by the three women for sale to the public. The exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust also provided the opportunity for the National Museum's publication, Wrapped in a Possum Skin Cloak, based on the Tooloyn Koortakay collection, to be launched in an Aboriginal community organisation. This was written by the three women, with Vicki Couzens' sister Debra, and National Museum curator Amanda Reynolds. All three exhibiting bodies consulted the artists about the implementation of the displays. Like the continuing permanent Tooloyn Koortakay exhibit, Biganga included stories about the production of the cloaks and their ongoing significance to their communities. Both displays featured a film of the artists making cloaks, as well as other contemporary artworks inspired by the cloaks, and the women's research of the ethnographic record.[79] These exhibitions were guided by community protocols and a desire to reinforce the survival of Aboriginality in the south-east.

The opening nights of all three exhibitions were widely attended by members of the Aboriginal community, and involved acknowledgement of the success of the project by elders, the revival of 'traditional' languages by the artists in their opening speeches, and dances by community representatives based on contemporary reinterpretations of 'traditional' dance styles.[80]These openings were performative representations of culture that, along with the exhibitions themselves, reveal the connections between the past and present, resituating Aboriginality in the south-east as dynamic, modern and authentic. This inclusive exhibitionary process, which has become a central feature of many Aboriginal art exhibitions, provides new ways for members of the Aboriginal community to engage with each other, reinforcing 'culture-making',[81] ironically, for Museum Victoria, in the same spaces that previously denied the authenticity of south-east Aboriginal art and culture.

Contesting categories
While the possum-skin cloak-making project emerged as a significant reminder of the capacity of Aboriginal people in the south-east to reclaim culture, it parallels the growth of Aboriginal art practices throughout the region. The opportunity to access material culture from the past held in museum collections and in rereadings of the ethnographic record has been instrumental in the resurgence of art practices in Aboriginal communities around Victoria. These non-linear approaches to cultural practices, where past, present and future intersect in the construction of new art forms, require different ways of visualising and interpreting art. Rather than imposing labels on south-east art and art practices, it is more appropriate to consider cultural theorist Stuart Hall's suggestion of 'thinking the cultural consequences of the colonising process ... through, rather than around "hybridity"'.[82] This means focusing on art practices as part of a cultural process rather than on the resultant art as fixed objects.

This process is reflected in a series of possum-skin cloak-making and design workshops conducted in 2005 and 2006 by Couzens, Hamm and Darroch who, together with Maree Clarke and the East Gippsland Aboriginal Arts Centre, disseminated cloak-making skills within their own communities. Workshops were held in 35 Aboriginal communities throughout Victoria, where people were encouraged to research stories that were significant to them and their communities and to incorporate contemporary illustrations alongside more traditional designs into possum skins.[83] The project was coordinated by Regional Arts Victoria and culminated in 35 elders and community representatives wearing the cloaks at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, in front of an international television audience.[84] This was the first time in over 150 years that possum-skin cloaks had been worn collectively to a ceremony. The cloaks continue to represent a cultural resurgence with connections to the past, while reflecting the contemporary nature of Aboriginal art practices. They emphasise cultural negotiation, rather than a fixed cultural purity.
Elders and community representatives from 35 Victorian language groups in possum-skin cloaks for the opening ceremony, Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, March 2006.
Elders and community representatives from 35 Victorian language groups in possum-skin cloaks for the opening ceremony, Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, March 2006
photograph by Mick Harding, courtesy Vicki Couzens

Possum-skin cloak projects are ongoing; a cloak made by Treahna Hamm was worn by Ngambri-Ngunnawal elder Matilda House at the opening of Parliament in Canberra in 2008, on the occasion of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Apology to the Stolen Generations.[85] Recent possum-skin cloak-making workshops conducted in museums, as well as artist-in-resident workshops at schools, have seen the cloak projects reinforce the presence of Aboriginal culture in the south-east.[86] The recognition of the cloaks as a 'different art tradition',87 situated within the framework of Aboriginal art history, opens a space for an Aboriginal art discourse that, as anthropologist Howard Morphy argues, may see it 'enter into a dialogue with European art discourses [where] each [is] influenced by the other'.[87]

The commodification of the cloaks and the skills and knowledge associated with them have influenced the collection and display of many artworks by institutions, which previously had restrictive approaches to collecting (such as Museum Victoria's reluctance to collect south-east Aboriginal material culture for much of the twentieth century).[88] The blurring of boundaries between ethnographic and fine art objects and artworks has also influenced the shift of 'craft' to 'art'. Although the adaptation of traditional weaving practices to create new styles, such as Treahna Hamm's woven yabbies, reveals strong individual and conceptual elements, which in a Kantian sense elevates the work to a fine art status,[89] these new interpretations are exhibited alongside more functional woven objects, including baskets and mats.[90] Significantly, these collections and their exhibition tend to reflect the more inclusive representations of Aboriginal art found in Keeping Places like the Koorie Heritage Trust, where the art of emerging and established artists and crafts people is exhibited within a context responsive to cultural understandings rather than imposed Western categories.

These exhibitions recognise Aboriginal ontologies and epistemologies as essential to the exhibitionary process. While these developments have contributed to a conflation of art categories, they encourage other ideas about art history and perceptions of art itself. As Morphy observes, the conflation of ethnography and fine art potentially enables opportunities for cross-cultural discourses that expand our perceptions and understandings of art within the broader context of 'social conditions and historical interactions of the time of production'.[91] For Aboriginal artists in the south-east this possibility has been influenced by the infiltration of Aboriginal artists, project managers and curators in the exhibitionary process, so that the display and articulation of Aboriginal artwork in exhibitions reflects Aboriginal ideas about their culture and their history.

Conclusion

Contemporary Aboriginal artists in Victoria still contend with opinions about their art as fixed in another time and place. Following concerted demands for better representations of their own culture after the 1988 bicentenary, local Aboriginal artists sought further control of art exhibitions, providing new and challenging approaches to perceptions of their material culture and their histories. The contested space occupied by south-east Aboriginal art is gradually being broken down by approaches which allow Aboriginal people to infiltrate high art and high culture venues and to explore cultural diversity and difference on many new levels. Aboriginal artists in the south-east today create works associated with memory and place, revealing collective and individual experiences of Aboriginality. Importantly, the involvement of Aboriginal people in exhibiting their art allows them to determine how their art is viewed and the context in which their stories are told.

This paper has been independently peer-reviewed.

Endnotes 1–30
This article arose from the time I spent working as an early career summer research fellow in the Centre for Historical Studies at the National Museum of Australia. I am grateful for the opportunity such a fellowship afforded and would like to thank the historians with whom I worked, especially Lynne McCarthy, Maria Nugent and Carol Cooper, for their time and advice.

1 See Fred Myers, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art, Duke University Press, Durham, 2002, p. 361.
2 See Howard Morphy, Becoming Art: Exploring Cross-Cultural Categories, University of New South Wales Press, Coogee, 2008. Morphy provides a discussion of Western art history and argues that essentialisms applied to 'fine art' categories are limiting when considering Aboriginal art. See also Kylie Message, New Museums and the Making of Culture, Berg Oxford, New York, 2006, for a discussion of 'old-style' museums as imperialist purveyors of 'high culture', compared to 'new' museums' attempts to incorporate broader ideas of culture, such as cultural rights and cultural diversity.
3 Lin Onus, 'Foreword', in Gary Lee & Bernhard Luthi (eds), Aratjara: Art of the First Australians: Traditional and Contemporary Works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists, DuMont, Kunstsammlung Nordheim-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, 1993, p. 11.
4 ibid., pp. 11–12. For details of events and exhibitions that Lin Onus participated in throughout 1988 and 1989 relating to the bicentenary, see Margot Neale (ed.), Urban Dingo, Craftsman House in association with Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2000, pp. 122, 130. These included print workshops and exhibitions, as well as the Cummeragunja Walk On, commemorating the 'Walk Off' in 1939.
5 Karen Casey is a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman, who has resided in Melbourne since the mid-1980s.
6 Margo Neale, 'United in the struggle: Indigenous art from the urban areas', in Sylvia Kleinert & Margo Neale (eds), The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p. 273.
7 Vivien Johnson, 'Cultural brokerage: Commodification and intellectual property', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, pp. 471–81.
8 Brenda Croft, 'Boomalli: From little things big things grow', in Luke Taylor (ed.), Painting the Land Story, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 1999, pp. 108–12.
9 Howard Morphy, Aboriginal Art, Phaidon Press, London, 1998, pp. 413–15.
10 Chris Healy, Forgetting Aborigines, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2008, pp. 110–12.
11 I use the term 'Aboriginal community', based on the definition by the Aboriginal researcher Judy Atkinson who explains that '"the Aboriginal Community" is in fact a "community of diverse communities" spread across Australia, and in some cases in other locations around the world Communities function separately and collectively, generally for the common good of the group'. See Judy Atkinson, Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines: The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia, Spinifex Press, North Melbourne, 2002, pp. viii–ix.
12 Throughout this article, the word 'story' is used to better reflect Indigenous knowledge systems, which are, as Atkinson describes, representative of a 'story place' or 'my story', denoting a 'personal history, a narrative description of life events' (ibid., p. v).
13 See Carol Cooper, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collections in Overseas Museums, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1989; Carol Cooper, 'Art of temperate south-east Australia', in Cooper et al. (eds), Aboriginal Australia/National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Australian Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Australian Gallery Directors Council, Sydney, 1981; Carol Cooper, 'Traditional visual culture in south-east Australia', in Andrew Sayers (ed.), Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1997; Carol Cooper, Judith Ryan & Joy Murphy-Wandin, Remembering Barak, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003; Sylvia Kleinert, 'An Aboriginal Moomba: Remaking history', Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 13, no. 3, 1999, 345–57; Sylvia Kleinert, 'Art and Aboriginality in the south-east', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture; Sylvia Kleinert, '"Blood from a stone": Ronald Bull's mural in Pentridge Prison', Australian Journal of Art, vol. 14, no. 2, 1999, 93–110; Sylvia Kleinert, '"Jacky Jacky was a smart young fella": A study of art and Aboriginality in south east Australia 1900–1980', PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1994; Sylvia Kleinert, 'Rear-vision mirror', in Neale (ed.), Urban Dingo; Donna Leslie, Aboriginal Art: Creativity and Assimilation, Macmillan Art Publishers, Melbourne, 2008; Donna Maree Leslie, 'Aboriginal art: Creative responses to assimilation', PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 2003; Donna Maree Leslie, '"Another View" walking trail: Pathway of the Rainbow Serpent', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture; Donna Maree Leslie, 'Griggs, Leslie (Les) (1962–1993)', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture.
14 When writing of the diversity of Aboriginal people, Aboriginal academic, lawyer and leader of Reconciliation Australia, Michael Dodson, refers to the multiple voices within the Aboriginal community, which 'speak back' to the dominant culture in ways that refuse any reduction to 'fixed' categories of Aboriginality. See Michael Dodson, 'The end in the beginning: Re(de)finding Aboriginality in Michele Grossman (ed.), Blacklines: Contemporary Critical Writing by Indigenous Australians, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, [1992] 2003, p. 39.
15 All interviews referred to in this article were recorded in 2004–05, and provided empirical data for my PhD thesis, '"Art is Us": Aboriginal art, identity and wellbeing in southeast Australia', University of Melbourne, 2007. The recordings and transcripts of these interviews are housed at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Inc. Oral History Unit, Melbourne.
16 See Homi K Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge, London & New York, 1994, p. 20.
17 See Nikos Papastergiadis, 'Hybridity and ambivalence: Places and flows in contemporary art and culture', Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 22, no. 4, 2005, 39–64 (p. 6).
18 Mary Louise Pratt, 'Arts of the contact zone' (first published 1991), excerpted in David Bartholomae & Anthony Petroksky (eds), Ways of Reading, Bedfords/St. Martins Press, New York, 1996, p. 356. For the full essay, go to http://www.class.uidaho.edu/thomas/English_506/Arts_of_the_Contact_Zone.pdf, accessed 30 March 2009.
19 James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1997, p. 213.
20 Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, Routledge, London & New York, 1992, p. 4.
21 Karen Martin (Booran Mirraboopa), 'Ways of knowing, ways of being and ways of doing: Developing a theoretical framework and methods for Indigenous re-search and Indigenist research', Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 27, no. 76, Voicing Dissent, 2003, 203–57 (p. 3). Also see Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1999, p. 5.
22 Penelope Edmonds, 'The Le Souef box: Reflections on Imperial nostalgia, material culture and exhibitionary practice in colonial Victoria', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 127, 2006, 128–39; Phillip Jones, 'Perceptions of Aboriginal art: A history', in Peter Sutton (ed.), Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, Viking, South Yarra, Victoria, 1989, pp. 155–7. See also Lynette Russell, Savage Imaginings: Historical and Contemporary Constructions of Australian Aboriginalities, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2001, p. 51.
23 Papastergiadis, 'Hybridity and ambivalence', p. 47.
24 ibid., p. 46.
25 Lorraine Coutts (Roving Curator, Aboriginal Programs, Museum Victoria), interview with the author, 2004.
26 Papastergiadis, 'Hybridity and ambivalence', p. 62.
27 Bain Attwood, Rights for Aborigines, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2003, pp. 22–7; Richard Broome, Aboriginal Victorians: A History since 1800, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2005, pp. 185–93; Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1997, pp. 611–13.
28 See Broome, Aboriginal Victorians, pp. 185–93.
29 There are many accounts in the Board for Protection of Aborigines Annual Reports from the 1870s onwards which acknowledge these sentiments; see for example Board for the Protection of Aborigines: 7th Annual Report, 1871, p. 9. Also see Diane Barwick, 'And the lubras are ladies now', in Fay Gale (ed.), Woman's Role in Aboriginal Society, AIAS, Canberra, 1978, pp. 54–60.
30 Cooper, 'Traditional visual culture in south-east Australia', pp. 92–3. See also Sayers, Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century, pp. 13–24, 27–49.
Endnotes 31–60
31 For example, tourists began to visit the Coranderrk reserve near Melbourne from the 1870s, and Lake Tyers reserve from the 1920s. In the 1950s Lin Onus's father Bill Onus began his boomerang and artefact factory, Aboriginal Enterprises, at Belgrave in Melbourne's outer east. See for example Alick Jackomos & Derek Fowell, Living Aboriginal History of Victoria: Stories in the Oral Tradition, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1991, pp. 13, 72–6; Carolyn Landon & Daryl Tonkin, Jackson's Track: Memoir of a Dreamtime Place, Viking, Ringwood, Vic., 1999, pp. 176–81; Kleinert, '"Jacky Jacky was a smart young fella"', pp. 226–47, Kleinert, 'Rear-vision mirror', pp. 26–9.
32 Onus, 'Southwest, Southeast Australia and Tasmania', p. 290.
33 Janet McCalman, 'Mapping Aboriginal Victoria', Meanjin, vol. 65, no. 1, 2006, 213–18 (p. 217).
34 Homi Bhabha, 'Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse', October, vol. 29, 1984, 125–37 (p. 127).
35 Ruth B Phillips & Christopher Burghard Steiner, 'Art, authenticity, and the baggage of cultural encounter', in Phillips & Steiner (eds), Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999, p. 10.
36 See Broome, Aboriginal Victorians, pp. 335–6, 341–2.
37 Onus, 'Southwest, Southeast Australia and Tasmania', p. 290.
38 Geoff Bardon & James Bardon, Papunya: A Place Made after the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2004; Geoffrey Bardon, 'The Papunya Tula movement', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture; Vivien Johnson, Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists, Institute of Aboriginal Development Press, Alice Springs, 2008.
38 See Johnson, 'Cultural brokerage', pp. 475–6.
40 See Nelson HH Graburn, 'Ethnic and tourist arts revisited', in Phillips & Steiner (eds), Unpacking Culture, p. 344; Phillip Jones, '"Arts and manufactures": Inventing Aboriginal craft', in Noris Ioannou (ed.), Craft in Society, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 1992, pp. 131–52; Jones, 'Perceptions of Aboriginal art: A history', p. 150.
41 Morphy, Aboriginal Art, p. 379; Howard Morphy, 'Seeing Aboriginal art in the gallery', Humanities Research, vol. 8, no. 1, 2001, 37–50 (p. 48). Also see Leslie, Aboriginal Art, p. 128.
42 In the 1980s Aboriginal art from the more populous regions acquired the label 'urban Aboriginal art'. Although the label provided a means in the 1980s for artists to assert their experiences of colonisation, later it limited the way Aboriginal artists and their art were considered by the public. Labelling Aboriginal art as 'urban' remains contentious, as it restricts Aboriginal art in the south-east from being recognised as authentic, when compared to that from remote areas, which is perceived to be more 'traditional'. See Leslie, Aboriginal Art, pp. 127–30; Hetti Perkins, 'Seeing and seaming: Contemporary Aboriginal art', in Grossman (ed.), Blacklines, p. 100.
43 Leslie, Aboriginal Art, p. 129.
44 ibid., p. 226; Neale (ed.), Urban Dingo, pp. 14–17.
45 Interview with the author, October 2004.
46 ibid. For further information on Thomas and any of the artists mentioned in this paper, including images of their work, see Fran Edmonds with Maree Clarke, 'Sort of Like Reading a Map': A Community Report on the Survival of South-East Australian Aboriginal Art since 1834, Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Darwin, 2009. Copies of this publication (including a pdf version) can be obtained from www.crcah.org.au.
47 For a broader discussion concerning the impact of the increased involvement of Aboriginal people in museum protocols and policies during the 1980s and 1990s, see Leslie, Aboriginal Art, p. 117.
48 Interview with the author, October 2004.
49 Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation, pp. 191–209.
50 See Jones, 'Perceptions of Aboriginal art', pp. 176–9. Also see Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen & Louise Hamby, Introduction: The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, pp. 3–13.
51 See Elliott Johnston, Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: National Report, AGPS, Canberra, 1991; National Native Title Tribunal (Australia) and Australian Government Solicitor, Native Title: Legislation with Commentary, 2nd edn, AusInfo, Canberra, 1998. Later, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission reported on the 'stolen generations', see HREOC, Bringing Them Home.
52 See Ian Anderson, 'Post-colonial Dreaming at the end of the whitefellas' millennium', in Kleinert & Neale (eds), Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture.
53 Anthropologist and former head of Indigenous cultures at Museum Victoria, Gay Sculthorpe, notes that the legislation passed in favour of Indigenous rights in the early 1990s was significant in providing alternative representations of Indigenous cultures and histories in the museum. The provision for alternative histories has continued, despite the election of the conservative government led by John Howard in 1996 (until the end of 2007), which frequently referred to more inclusive representations of Aboriginal history and culture as 'black armband history'. See Gayle Sculthorpe, 'Exhibiting Indigenous histories in Australian museums', paper published in the National Museums Negotiating Histories conference proceedings, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2001, pp. 73–84.
54 Bernard Luthi, 'Acknowledgments', in Lee & Luthi (eds), Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, pp. 9–10; Onus, 'Foreword', pp. 11–12; Judy Peebus, 'Songlines across Europe', Age, 3 June 1994, www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/art/age3jun94.html, accessed 2 September 2006.
55 Bernhard Luthi, 'Translating cultures: Lin Onus, a man of many ways', in Neale (ed.), Urban Dingo, pp. 49–56; Lee & Luthi (eds), Aratjara: Art of the First Australians; Onus, 'Foreword', pp. 11–12; Felicity Wright with Djon Mundine, 'Passion, rich collectors and the export dollar: The selling of Aboriginal art overseas', Artlink, vol. 18, no. 4, 1998, 16–24.
56 Peebus, 'Songlines across Europe'.
57 Over half of the essays in the catalogue were written by Aboriginal artists, curators and academics, revealing the organisers' commitment to incorporate firsthand accounts from the Aboriginal artists and those involved in the production of the art.
58 Brenda Croft, 'Labelled — buyer be aware', Artlink, vol. 20, no. 1, 2000, 84–5.
59 Gary Lee, 'A history of appreciation of Australian Aboriginal art', in Lee & Luthi (eds), Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, pp. 46–7.
60 See John McDonald, 'The dream weavers', Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 1998, www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/art/smh10jan98.html, accessed 10 August 2007.
Endnotes 61–91
61 Luthi, 'Translating cultures', p. 52.
62 For instance, see the discussion surrounding the exhibition Magiciens de le Terre, held in Paris in 1989, in Myers, Painting Culture, pp. 290–4. For a discussion of the conceptual shift from 'Primitive' to 'Indigenous' art in the 1980s, see Sally Butler, 'Multiple views: Pluralism as curatorial perspective', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, vol. 4, no. 1, 2003, 12–13. Also see Wright & Mundine, 'Passion, rich collectors and the export dollar', for an overview of international exhibitions held between 1988 and 1998.
63 Myers, Painting Culture, p. 240.
64 Peter Sutton & Christopher Anderson, 'Introduction', in Peter Sutton (ed.), Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, Viking in association with the Asia Society Galleries, New York, Ringwood, Vic., 1989, p. 1.
65 For further discussion of the Dreamings exhibition, see Fred Myers, 'Culture-making: Performing Aboriginality at the Asia Society Gallery', American Ethnology, vol. 21, no. 4, 1994; Myers, Painting Culture, pp. 231–54 (especially p. 242). Also see Croft, 'Boomalli', p. 102; Wright & Mundine, 'Passion, rich collectors and the export dollar'.
66 Luthi, 'Translating cultures', p. 53.
67 Bhabha, 'Of mimicry and man', p. 130.
68 Kate Harvey, Peter Clarke, Maree Clarke, Sonja Hodge, Ellen José, Liz McAloon & Merren Ricketson, 'Can't See for Lookin": Koori Women Artists Educating, Women's Art Register, Vic., 1992, pp. 6–13.
69 For commentary from various artists and project officers involved in the exhibition and the implications of this project for the Aboriginal and broader community, see Virginia Fraser, 'Can't see for lookin'', Art Monthly Australia, no. 62, August 1993, 23–5.
70 Harvey et al., 'Can't See for Lookin'', p. 9.
71 Interview with the author, October 2004.
72 Harvey et al., 'Can't See for Lookin'', p. 11. A complete set of this kit is held by the Women's Art Register, c/o Richmond Library, 415 Church Street, Richmond, Victoria, 3121.
73 See Myers, 'Culture-making', p. 681.
74 Maree Clarke, pers. comm., November 2003, March 2009; Kimba Thompson, interview with the author, September 2004.
75 This is the view of art historian Jacqueline Millner concerning multicultural artworks exhibited at the 2006 Sydney Biennale, which also accords with ideas of the transcultural space occupied by Aboriginal art. See Jacqueline Millner, 'The contact zone', in Natasha Bullock & Reuben Keehan (eds), Zones of Contact: 2006 Biennale of Sydney: A Critical Reader, Sydney, 2006, http://www.cacsa.org.au/cvapsa/2006/7_bs35_3/Millner.pdf, accessed 3 August 2009.
76 Ballyhoo Publicity released a catalogue and publicity report of the exhibitions. While there were five concurrently running exhibitions, each with a different name, collectively they were known as We Iri We Homeborn. In addition to the catalogue, a compilation of media releases including newspaper reports and radio interviews about the exhibitions and the organisers were available in local and state-wide publications. These were also included in the Ballyhoo kit. See Ballyhoo Publicity, We Iri, We Homeborn Catalogue, Melbourne, 1996.
77 Interview with the author, October 2004.
78 See Amanda Jane Reynolds, Debra Couzens, Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch & Treahna Hamm, Wrapped in a Possum Skin Cloak: The Tooloyn Koortakay Collection in the National Museum of Australia, National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, 2005.
79 See ibid.; Robin Usher, 'Tradition wrapped up in a cloaks of possum', Age, 13 March 2006, p. 14.
80 Author's field notes, 2006.
81 Myers, Painting Culture, p. 361.
82 Stuart Hall, 'When was "The post-colonial"? Thinking at the limit', in Iain Chambers & Lidia Curti (eds), The Post-Colonial Question, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 251.
83 Vicki Couzens provides some background to the Commonwealth Games possum-skin cloak project as well as her ongoing commitment to the reinvigoration of cloak-making in her community, in Vicki Couzens, 'Possum skin cloak — you're wrapped in your Country', in Moya Sayer-Jones (ed.), Big Story Country: Great Arts Stories from Regional Australia, Regional Arts Australia, Port Adelaide, South Australia, 2008.
84 See Kate Gerritsen & Regional Arts Australia, 'Meerta peeneeyt, yana peeneeyt, tanam peeneeyt, kooramook (stand strong, walk strong, proud flesh strong, possum skin cloak)', Regional Arts Victoria website, 2006, www.rav.net.au/erave1/files/Possum%20Skin%20Cloak%20article.pdf, accessed 15 August 2007.
85 See Couzens, 'Possum skin cloak'.
86 For examples of recent workshops conducted by the women, see www.mgs.vic.edu.au/news/downloads/No.8%20Grimwade%20News.pdf, accessed 30 March 2009. Also see www.sellingyarns.com/2009/conference/workshops.php, accessed 5 March 2009.
87 Morphy, Becoming Art, p. 145.
88 Gaye Sculthorpe, Michelle La Combe & Mira Lakic, Guide to Victorian Aboriginal Collections in the Museum of Victoria, Division of Human Studies, Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, 1990, p. 14.
89 See Immanuel Kant, 'The critique of judgement', in Donald Preziosi (ed.), The Art of Art History, Oxford University Press, Oxford [1790], 1998.
90 For details of the ReCoil exhibition of contemporary woven material culture by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists held at the National Museum of Australia in 2008–09, see Margie West, ReCoil: Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art, Artback Northern Territory Arts Touring, Darwin, 2007. Both the National Gallery of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria have contemporary and older weavings in their collections.
91 Morphy, Becoming Art, pp. 174–5, 177.