Have you been curious to learn what’s coming up at FAC over the next few months?
Wonder no more because our Jul–Sep 2022 Program has just been released!
This is your comprehensive guide to all our upcoming exhibitions, insightful talks, late night events, gigs, art courses, studio artists and more.
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Top image: Andrew Nicholls and Jingdezhen artisans, Untitled (Cobalt Skull #1), hand-painted cobalt on porcelain, dimensions variable. Cobalt painting by Yu Xuan, 2016. Photography by Bewley Shaylor
“It is time to see stained glass as art of the future, not only of the past. It does not belong only in the realm of the ecclesiastical, but in the clamorous space of daily life, philosophical preoccupations and the convergence of nature and the industrial.”
Residing in Perth on Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodjar, Hannah Gregory is an Australian leaded stained-glass artist who is currently in residence at Fremantle Arts Centre. After dedicating years to honing her craft working in glass studios across Australia on larger public works and lengthy restorations, Hannah is now solely focusing on her own practice, commissions and autonomous works.
Returning to her hometown of Perth after attending residencies in Austria and Wales, Hannah is experimenting with sandblasting, painting, leading, plating and kiln forming. Her goal during her residency is to make pieces that provoke thought as light provokes life using natural inclusions and inspiration from the Western Australian coastal landscape.
You’ve been working as a glass artist for 6 years. What is it about working with this medium that appeals to you?
There’s a couple of reasons why I’m drawn to glass. I think there’s a real egoless-ness to it which is embedded in the history of glass art. For example, historically with stained glass in ecclesiastical churches, you weren’t making the windows for you, you were making them to serve a higher purpose. Even though I’m not religious, I like the idea that it’s not all about the artist per se; it’s about something bigger than you.
And I love that you are just facilitating the art a lot of the time because the light does all of it. I love it because the potential is limitless. It’s kind of been stereotyped with people thinking stained glass is only for churches or old-fashioned houses, but it’s so much more interesting than that.
Tell us about your practice. What kind of work are doing at the moment?
My practice is largely lead-based, so stained glass. I paint on glass which is quite specialised and at the time I started it was impossible to learn in Australia, so I had to go overseas. I also work with the sandblaster and enamels – all different sorts of things! All my pieces require kiln firing, my kiln is my best friend.
My practice is mostly commission-based but at the moment, on this residency, it’s more experimental and later in the year I’m going to the US for a fellowship which is more painting-based. It’s a mixture of large architectural commissions for commercial spaces or private homes, painting and more experimental work.
I also do little drops on Instagram of tarot cards and different things which are more ephemeral for people who don’t necessarily own their home or people who move around. I really like the idea of these smaller pieces and they are quite popular. I think stained glass is having a revival.
Tell me about the experimental work you’ve been doing while on this residency?
Like everyone in Australia I spend a lot of time on the coast. I’ve been experimenting with using seaweed which I’m finding quite interesting. So largely I’m trying to fuse these natural elements between glass and create patterns with the natural materials. I also love experimenting with plating, which is where you layer sections of glass. I’ve been going through a process of compressing seaweed so it dries and becomes like a pressed flower. I’ve been really enjoying that. There’s something that I find so interesting about seeing something so familiar to us in a foreign way like a piece of seaweed between glasses, it looks quite isolated. I not 100% sure where this work is going, but I guess that’s the point of the residency, to be able to explore.
You are part of a league of artists who are modernising the medium of stained-glass art. How have attitudes towards glass art shifted? Do you feel there is a greater appetite for the medium both commercially and in contemporary art?
I would say that there have been multiple movements in the past which perhaps have been accelerated by social media, but the one we’re seeing now I think is happening largely because people are starting to value handmade, bespoke products. People are becoming more disenfranchised with fast anything – whether that be fast fashion or fast furniture. It seems to me people are yearning for things that are unique and that relate to them. That has created a market for a lot more stained glass to be made and made in a different way. You’ll see a lot of décor-style stained-glass on Instagram, which is usually the copper foil method, but then you’ll see a lot of people that are approaching it in an architectural way that’s a bit different. I kind of do both. I think in the end, it does come down to the idea that everyone wants to invest in something that’s unique. People are starting to be a bit more thoughtful with where they put their money, and I think that means there’s more support for artists than ever before.
Follow Hannah on Instagram or visit her website to find out more about her work
Fremantle Arts Centre’s April – June 2022 program has just been released.
Read the online version to catch up on all FAC’s upcoming exhibitions, evenings of discussion, special events, gigs, art courses and more.
In consideration of the continued increase in community cases of COVID-19 and that cases are anticipated to peak at the end of March and into April we have made the following decisions regarding our Learning Classes for April – June 2022.
School Holiday Classes cancelled for April 2022
Unfortunately we will not be going ahead with our school holiday program for April 2022.
We look forward to welcoming all our creative kids back in the July holidays!
Term 2 Learning Classes
The commencement of Term 2 classes will be delayed.
We will be scheduling a 6 week program as opposed to the usual 9 week program and will continue with our one day or weekend classes as per usual.
REVISED KEY DATES
|Adults Term 2||Classes Published Online||11 Apr|
|Adults Term 2||Member Enrolments Open||13 Apr|
|Adults Term 2||General Enrolments Open||20 Apr|
|Adults Term 2||Term 2 Dates||23 May – 1 July|
|Kids Classes – July Holidays||Classes Published Online||27 May|
|Kids Classes – July Holidays||Enrolments Open||30 May|
|Kids Classes – July Holidays||Classes Underway||2 Jul – 17 Jul|
We understand this will be disappointing news for our community. Please be assured that these decisions have been made after careful consideration and in respect to the safety of our community and our staff as our absolute priority.
Across the vast state of Western Australia Aboriginal artistic practice is thriving – whether it’s the continuation of centuries-old techniques informed by tradition, or forays into exciting mediums – the ambitious output is as rich and diverse as WA itself, and will be celebrated once more at Revealed, Fremantle Arts Centre’s popular annual program dedicated to showcasing the best new and emerging Aboriginal artists who call the state home.
Revealed Exhibition: New & Emerging WA Aboriginal Artists
Opening 6:30pm Fri 6 May / Runs Sat 7 May – Sun 24 July
This year the Revealed Exhibition will open on Friday 6 May and run until Sunday 24 July, a significant calendar shift that sees Revealed coincide with both NAIDOC and National Reconciliation Weeks.
Featuring the work of 100 new and emerging talents in 2022, the Revealed Exhibition is now a cornerstone of the WA arts calendar.
Revealed showcases the creative works of emerging artists at varying stages of their lives, from young people exploring photography and film to older people who have only recently started painting their Country or who are exploring new mediums and processes. In this way, Revealed offers a unique snapshot of emerging Aboriginal art practice from across Western Australia.
With over 250 works, the 2022 Revealed Exhibition features artists from 29 Aboriginal Art Centres and nine independent artists. Fremantle Arts Centre’s galleries will be filled with a vibrant breadth of painting, installation, textiles, photography, print media, video, jewellery, weaving and sculpture.
“Revealed is a joy and a celebration, for artists and our communities. The Revealed Exhibition brings together emerging artists at all stages of their lives and showcases Aboriginal art making in all of its diversity and complexity, revealing rich and multi-layered cultural conversations about our histories, our lives and our belongings,” said Fremantle Arts Centre Visual Arts Curator, Glenn Iseger-Pilkington.
“Walking through Revealed, you’re filled with a sense of wonder at the stories shared – from ancient narratives of the Dreaming to the funny quirks of Arts Centre life.”
Artists were selected for the 2022 Revealed Exhibition by a panel of industry experts comprised of Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Sharyn Egan and Carly Lane.
“Revealed is a critical moment in the national calendar for Western Australian Aboriginal artists and connects deeply with Fremantle Art Centre’s overall curatorial commitment to connecting people through truth-telling and powerful narratives of place,” said Fremantle Arts Centre Director Anna Reece.
All works in the Revealed Exhibition are for sale.
To view the full list of exhibiting artists, visit the Revealed Exhibition page.
Revealed WA Aboriginal Art Market (online event)
Fri 27 – Sun 29 May
After a successful online debut in 2021, which attracted over 15,000 visitors from more than 50 countries around the world, the Revealed WA Aboriginal Art Market is anticipated to be bigger and better in 2022 – with an enormous selection of quality paintings, textiles, carved artefacts, homewares, prints, clothing, ceramics, jewellery and more to choose from.
With ongoing COVID travel restrictions, the Revealed Market will return as an online event from Friday 27 – Sunday 29 May, ensuring vital income for the artists and Arts Centre who take part.
The Revealed Market exists to provide an ethical avenue for purchasing original art from art centres and independent artists across the state, in one place, with 100% of all profits raised from sales return to the participants.
The Revealed Market is open to all WA Aboriginal artists – emerging, mid-career and senior – with works priced from as little as $50, catering for first-time buyers through to collectors and investors.
Please contact Rosamund Brennan
email@example.com / 08 9432 9565
Header image: Dora Parker, Pukara (detail), 2021, acrylic on canvas, 110 x 85cm. Image courtesy the artist and Spinifex Arts Project
In light of yesterday’s announcement by the WA State Government introducing Level 2 public health measures from this Thursday 3 March, we wanted to share how this will impact Fremantle Arts Centre’s programs and events.
Our beautiful grounds, our shop FOUND, and Canvas Café will all remain open.
– Our galleries with our current exhibition Undertow will remain open
– Our Curator Tours will go ahead on Sat 26 Mar + Fri 1 Apr
– Our Tactile Tours have been cancelled
FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE
– Buster the Fun Bus and Friday Story Time will both proceed outdoors in our Front Garden
All our scheduled learning classes will be running as planned. Class numbers are all safely within 2sqm limits and masks are mandatory.
FAC YEAH! COMMUNITY CHOIR
Will be paused, effective immediately. Tonight’s session (1 Mar) will not take place so we look forward to resuming when we can all sing together, uninhibited, once more.
Disclosure with Gemma Weston (22 Mar) and An Evening with the Collection (23 Mar) will go ahead. These events will be moved to our Front Garden to ensure greater social distancing can be observed throughout. Registration to attend these events will now be required. Please visit the event pages on our website to do so.
Pecha Kucha Karaoke (11 Mar) has been cancelled.
Sunday Music will proceed with a capacity limit of 500. All patrons will need to wear a mask at all times while at the event. We recommend you arrive early.
Updates about our upcoming music shows will be made in the coming days and weeks, in consultation with the event promoters.
A reminder that FAC is a vaccine-mandated site and proof of vaccination is required for entry. Please visit https://www.fac.org.au/about/covid-safe/ for details. Capacity limits will be in place so we ask all visitors to enter the building via reception so this can be monitored.
We thank you, our amazing community, for your understanding as we navigate the challenges Omicron presents. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the Ridges of Our Hands – Project Team
Soul Alphabet Coordinator
Born 1998, Kigali, Rwanda
Lives and works Kwinana, Walyalup | Fremantle and Boorloo | Perth, Western Australia
Linda Iriza is a Rwandan people weaver, creative producer and artist currently living on Nyoongar Boodjar. Her work includes community engagement and arts projects, and she is co-founder of Soul Alphabet, an organisation committed to amplifying the voices of People of Colour and celebrating the cultures of the African diaspora here in Western Australia.
Hair Braiding Artist
Born 1990, Tigray
Lives and works in Boorloo | Perth, Western Australia
Elsa Weldemical is a mother, committed to celebrating and continuing her Tigrayan culture in Boorloo. She braids the hair of women in her community for culturally significant ceremonies and celebrations. Elsa’s passion is for her children.
Soul Alphabet Collaborator
Born 1993, Takapuna, Aotearoa New Zealand
Lives and works between Bindjareb Boodja and Boorloo | Perth, WA
Emele Ugavule is a Tokelauan Fijian storyteller. Her research and practice is centred on Oceanic Indigenous-led storytelling, working across live performance, film, tv & digital media as a writer, director, creative producer, performer, educator and mentor. Emele collaborates with organisations that unite community through story, including Soul Alphabet and is the founder of Studio Kiin.
Shanice Keeru Mwathi
Born 1998 Nairobi, Kenya
Lives and works Boorloo | Perth, Whadjuk Boodjar, Western Australia
Shanice Mwathi is a photographer and videographer who enjoys working on branding projects and photo portriatiure. Shanice’s work often approaches abstract themes and is informed by her African-Australian experience and she loves that I can represent this community in her work.
Lives and works in Boorloo | Perth, Western Australia
Patient Beyan has over 10 years of experience in her hair braiding practice, a craft that has always been performed in her Liberian and wider-African community for centuries. The hair experience is important to her as it is a celebration of self-love, trust, connection, and an embodiment of ancestral knowledge.
Born 1996, Lusaka, Zambia
Lives and works Boorloo | Perth, Whadjuk Boodjar, Western Australia
Chiluba Young is a Boorloo-based photographer who started photography with the intent of building friendships with African women in Australia who shared her life experiences. Representing women through photography has become a passion for her. Chiluba’s work seeks to address the lack of representation of Black women, particularly within the arts community in Western Australia.
Follow Soul Alphabet on Instagram: @soul.alphabet
Works for sale
A selection of Chiluba Young and Shanice Mwathi‘s Undertow works are available to purchase. Visit our sales page for details.
CURATOR’S REFLECTIONS: SOUL ALPHABET
In this sense, braiding is not just an aesthetic form with a history, it is a literature of the skull; an art with its own canon; it heralds unbroken lines of intimate memory passed from generation to generation.
Sisonke Msimang, 2022
Oceans have long been places of journey, a theatre of people moving across time and place. While oceans feature in many of our narratives, often they are spaces of longing, the space between us and our families, our homelands, or our histories.
When we travel, when we choose a new place in the world to live, we take so much of ourselves, of our ancestors and the worlds we have inhabited with us, we find people in our new communities who are able to relate to our own experiences and find comfort in being understood without being asked for an explanation.
The photographic project At the Ridges of Our Hands explores the practices that travel with the movement of people, by showcasing braiding traditions of African communities living in Boorloo & Walyalup, away from the African continent. These powerful photographic works depict both the practice and outcome of braiding, but more importantly, they reveal intimate spaces of connection, belonging and community. Through their lenses, photographers Shanice Keeru Mwathi and Chiluba Young take us on a journey into these spaces, they reveal to us not just a process of beautification, but a lineage of knowledge and a network of memory embodied within the hands and minds of braiders across the globe, all which trace back to the African continent, to homelands that people will always belong to.
At the Ridges of Our Hands is an initiative of Soul Alphabet, a small organisation committed to amplifying the voices of People of Colour, with a focus on working alongside those belonging to the African diaspora. At the Ridges of Our Hands celebrates the enduring influence that the African diaspora have style and aesthetics globally, recentering the African diaspora at the heart of all that is cool.
CALL & RESPONSE: ‘WE COOL’ BY SISONKE MSIMANG
The following text was commissioned for Undertow, as a response to the narratives, themes, and ideas in Soul Alphabet’s exhibited works. Sisonke Msimang is a Boorloo-based, South African writer, activist and political analyst whose works explore race gender and politics.
I love us when we are ordinary and unspectacular
I am interested in the contemporary, in the modern; in the way Black people live in now-time.
I am interested in how we make space today for what might emerge tomorrow.
I am interested in present-day renderings of African life and Black diasporic life because too often, when Black people show up in galleries, on white walls in cool buildings that have long colonial memories, we are representatives of some dark past, rendered as evidence of the sadness (and occasionally joy) that emanate from a dark continent.
We appear veiled in sadness; draped in big feelings – good or bad. We are seldom captured in in-between moments. We are never twenty-first century people doing twenty-first century things. We are chained to our pasts. It is easy to forget when you look at us in exhibitions, that we invented cool.
I could spend time – as many have – excavating the many African histories Europeans tried to kill during the Enlightenment when they believed they discovered individual rights and science and when they invented race. In creating the myth of their intellectual superiority, they dreamed up a new racial taxonomy in which white was on top and black was on the bottom; in which white was the opposite of black; in which slavery was justified. It posited that dark-skinned people were pre-modern which meant we were enslave-able and had to be saved from our own wretchedness.
But I am disinclined to disprove scientific and other kinds of racism because, as Toni Morrison reminds us, “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”1
So, I see us as future people and am not interested in being detained by dredging up “one more thing,” which keeps me from doing my work. I would rather do my work, which is to imagine into the certainty of the future because nothing can be more important than to secure life on this planet in the days that come after tomorrow.
Black art has always been about making a way where there appears to be none and braiding is the art of making tracks, of moving away from one destination and towards another. Braids are lines on a scalp that become a pattern, that make their wearer a beauty to behold. African art has always been deeply invested in the aesthetics of balance and braids are nothing if not a work of balance. Braids are a metaphor then; a path and a creative impulse. And lest you accuse me of forgetting where we come from, yes, braiding is also about memory. The neat lines and clean rows that flow from a braider’s hand are a measure of how she was taught; a reflection of the woman who taught the braider. Braiding does not emerge as a skill miraculously out of thin air.
In this sense, braiding is not just an aesthetic form with a history, it is a literature of the skull; an art with its own canon; it heralds unbroken lines of intimate memory passed from generation to generation.
In Yoruba ontology, the human personality consists of three elements: ara (body), emi (soul) and ori (inner head).2 One’s success or failure in life depends on the head. Adorning the head then, is a way of honouring the ori.
As a child I have many memories of sitting on the floor with my head leaning back into my mother’s lap. I always wriggled because the hot comb would singe my ears. My mother would say ‘my girl you have to suffer for beauty.’ The proto-feminist in me hated this phrase. I would squirm more, in anticipated fear, the smell of burning hair mocking me. She would tighten her grip on my torso with her legs and I would be stilled by force. But then the hard part would be over and once my hair my hair was straight, the kinks burned out of it by the hot comb, I would relax into the plaiting. I loved that part of the bi-weekly ritual. My mother had soft hands and my head was never sore afterwards. I was always pleased afterwards. I would look in the hand mirror she put in front of my face and my eyes would be pulled taut and high and everyone would say how beautiful I was. My uncle would call me Cleopatra and my cousin would say I looked like Queen Nandi.
When I was older, in university, missing my mother and her soft hands, I sat in an art class and learned about the “aesthetics of cool.” My lecturer refenced Robert Farris Thompson, the grandfather of cool and suddenly I understood something I had only intuited.
Farris Thompson tells us that “coolness has to do with transcendental balance. Manifest within this philosophy of the cool is the belief that the purer, the cooler, a person becomes the more ancestral he becomes. In other words, mastery of self enables a person to transcend time and elude preoccupation.”3 In other words, to be cool is an ethic, a stylised way of exhibiting beauty and exhibit calmness. To be cool is to “be nonchalant in times of stress.”4 This philosophy predates the arrival of Europeans, but it has assisted Black people everywhere in surviving the colonial encounter with remarkable creativity.
My mother’s words were not simply the feminist betrayal I had imagined them to be. She was instructing me in an ethic of beauty that went beyond the superficial. She wasn’t (just) glorifying pain; she was also teaching me how to cool down; how to endure; how to master myself in service of respectability (she was after all, middle-class) but more importantly, in service of what Helena Andrews has called, Black women’s “coolness coat of arms.” She was helping me to develop a mask, “our impenetrable shield.”5
She was also instructing me in the reality that African aesthetics are never just about the cover. What is on the outside matters because of the spirit it protects. When my relatives called me Nandi and Cleopatra, they were not simply saying I was pretty, they were seeing me; they were recognising my ori.
The photographs exhibited in Undertow telegraph our ori. They remind me that I love us when we are ordinary and unspectacular. They tell me we make beautiful things everyday – out of the ridges of our hands. In these pictures African women are not detained by the camera nor distracted by its gaze. The women in these photographs are searching the skies, on the lookout for unidentified objects on the horizon. In these pictures our gazes are fixed firmly on the future.
Gurl, in these photos, we cool.
Sisonke Msimang, 2022
1 Part of a speech Morrison made at Portland State University in 1975 entitled, A Humanist View. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/portland-state-library/portland-state-black-studies-1
2 Lawal, Babatunde. “Orí: The Significance of the Head in Yoruba Sculpture.” Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 41, no. 1, [University of New Mexico, University of Chicago Press], 1985, pp. 91–103, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630272.
3 Thompson, Robert Farris. p. 41 in “An Aesthetic of the Cool.” African Arts, vol. 7, no. 1, UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center, 1973, pp. 41–91, https://doi.org/10.2307/3334749
5 Black people: Naturally Cool? A conversation on NPR radio between Margo Jefferson and Helena Andrews. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=147501624
About the Artist
Born 1965, Whadjuk Country, Western Australia
Lives and works Undalup | Busselton, Wardandi Nyoongar Boodja, Western Australia
Badimia (Yamatji) and Yued (Nyoongar) Peoples, Western Australia
A Badimia and Yued woman, born on Whadjak Country, Amanda Bell has a diverse creative repertoire, working with sculptural materials, video, sound, textiles, found objects, and most recently neon lighting. Ambitious and experimental, her practice is dedicated to “… trying new ways of telling stories that are sometimes uncomfortable and painful, sometimes fun and frivolous.”
She has participated in several group exhibitions, including Fremantle Arts Centre’s Revealed and Bunbury Regional Art Centre’s Noongar Country, and her work is held in
various state and private collections.
Works for sale
Amanda’s Undertow work is available to purchase. Visit our sales page for details.
CURATOR’S REFLECTIONS: AMANDA BELL
Balak (Naked), 2022
glass neon, LED lights, sound, yongka (kangaroo) bones, salt, sand, tea, flour, sugar, dried flowers, synthetic polymer paint.
Amanda Bell’s newly commissioned work Balak (Naked), 2022, approaches the themes of wardarn or oceans through a lens of personal and collective trauma. This significant installation, comprised of neon glass, audio, written word, marri gum and collected yongka (kangaroo) bones, asks us to reflect upon recent histories for First Nations people, those of colonial invasion and dispossession inflicted by the British in their strategic assault and takeover of this continent.
Bell once again employs glass neon to convey deeply moving words, this time in bold red and in English, the coloniser’s tongue. The words ‘our silence is full of rage’ are etched in light as if scratched into the very wall. They cast a haunting glow across the gallery, as if it were blood-soaked, and speak to the silence she has encountered when talking about colonial and recent atrocities with her elders.
Bell reminds us that these silences are not empty spaces, but instead they are spaces of deep anger and immense sorrow, and that silence is not always powerless, that a lot can be said, conveyed and felt in responses made of silence.
At the end of the room, in a grave-like shallow illuminated with light, lay the skeletal remains of a kangaroo resting upon a bed of salt/sand. Delicately and reverently hand-painted in marri gum, they speak to the great horrors of this continent, of unwritten histories and of the blood spilled on boodja in the attempted genocide of First Peoples since invasion in 1829.
Bell’s use of neon, known for its role in advertising and signage, and LED lighting, now commonplace in both domestic and commercial settings, anchors us in there here and now, reminding us of the continuation of colonial rule, ongoing attempts of cultural erasure and systemic racism that plagues the psyche of this continent.
Untitled: BY AMANDA BELL
The following poem was written by Amanda Bell, with the response in this instance being that of the same words being translated into Nyoongar, one of the ancestral languages of the artist which often features within her work.
Untitled, by Amanda Bell
When did I know you?
Not when we were taken, and we had no voice.
Ashamed, you were hidden from me, or did you hide?
The wadjella took my skin and my kin
My kin! Hidden and hurting.
In my kambarang I felt you from inside,
just stirring, dawning like an old one remembering horror from the spring.
Silenced again in that tomb-sized classroom.
That fucking, racist, violent room,
where red and white lies, defile the last grave.
Again, in the Birak, you broke through my skin.
Bunuru touching me with your pale spider fingers.
This time you came screaming to the surface, breathless.
So breathless I could not speak,
I thought maybe I would never speak again.
And then came the change in the wind.
And, deeper I felt you clawing to get out, out of me and all of us,
when the world turns rusted red in Djeran
Is it worse that now my body knows yours?
Now our hot blood leapt and pumped on a Makuru flower
Now that it’s finished where I began.
Is it worse that now I know my tongue?
I’m tried and tired and can’t ever lie with you and make that crying, perfect Djilba koolang?
Is it worse than if we never met at all?
How can I say it’s worse, can I admit it’s worse?
It is worse…………..
Our silence is full of rage.
Amanda Bell, 2022
Nyoongar Word List
Birak – Nyoongar season (December and January)
Bunuru – Nyoongar season (February and March)
Djeran – Nyoongar season (April And May)
Djilba – Nyoongar season (August and September)
Kambarang – Nyoongar season (October to November)
Kalyakool – always, forever
Koolang – child
Makuru – Noongar (June And July)
Wadjella – white person
About the Artist
Garry Sibosado is an artist, designer, and jeweller of the Bard People of the west Kimberley.
Sibosado lives and works at Lombadina, a small community 200 kilometres north of Broome.
Garry’s works are contemporary explorations of traditional Bard creation narratives, kinship systems and culture, made from guwan or pearl shell, the same material used by his ancestors in fashioning of cultural objects.
His works have been exhibited widely, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Cairns Regional Gallery, Wollongong Gallery and Western Australian Museum.
Works for sale
Garry’s Undertow work is available to purchase. Visit our sales page for details.
CURATOR’S REFLECTIONS: GARRY SIBOSADO
Garry Sibosado is an artist, designer, and jeweller of the Bard people of the west Kimberley. Garry’s works are contemporary explorations of traditional Bard creation narratives, kinship systems and culture, made from guwan or pearl shell, the same material used by his ancestors in fashioning of cultural objects.
While Garry doesn’t consider himself a politically motivated artist, the way that Garry works and the pace he takes in creating a work is in many ways a comment on the fast pace of contemporary life and the systems of capitalism that manifest as continued and ongoing development in Western Australia and significant environmental and social impact this has on place and people.
Sibosado lives and works at Lombadina, a small community 200 kilometres north of Broome in the north west. Garry’s life, as with the lives of all Bard saltwater people, has been shaped by seas and oceans that surround the peninsula that Lombadina sits upon. These bodies of water sustain Bard people, physically, culturally, and spiritually – they are home to the totemic creatures that provide food for community but also, like the land, waters are imbued with lore – holding the keys to understanding one’s place in the world.
For Garry, as for all seafaring First Nations people, to understand and navigate the water you must also understand and hold knowledge of the sky – they are inherently entwined and interconnected – tides are, after all, made by the pull of the moon, and stories of our human beginnings are etched into the night sky, witnessed by us and our ancestors alike, across the eons.
‘My art reflects my heritage as a saltwater man from the Bard Country in the Dampier Peninsula of the West Kimberley. Although the sea is a constant inspiration for my designs, for this work I have turned my gaze to the skies – to the ‘ocean in the sky’. The stars that make up the Milky Way is what we call ‘Oongoonorr’.
Many cultural creators came from the ‘Oongoonorr’. Symbols within this work include traditional and contemporary icon designs that represent totems of my people, as well as a glimpse of the multitude of stories that our people transfer from generation to generation about the stars.’
CALL & RESPONSE: THE SALWATER SLOW DOWN: GARRY SIBOSADO’S ‘OONGOONORR’ (MILKY WAY), BY EMILIA GALATIS, 2022
The following text was commissioned for Undertow and written following an interview between Garry Sibosado and Emilia Galatis, on January 3rd 2022. Emilia Galatis is an independent curator, author, and arts facilitator with over 15 years of experience working alongside Aboriginal artists and remote art centres in the development and promotion of ambitious creative projects.
“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.” ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
The cyclical nature of time mimics the rhythms of nature; as we reach the limits of capitalism perhaps, we can glimpse the tidal motions of our next aeon, but only if we listen carefully. Amongst the relentless development in the State of Western Australia, reciprocity with our natural world seems unfathomable. If Western thought teaches us anything, it’s that everything is a construct, systems created by man that stratify humans as the undisputed leaders. As the last creations to join the other living beings on the planet, I am not sure when we assumed this unquestionable authority. Country is so loud right now, how will we hear the answers? We are floating in the ocean, the sea of possibility; every full moon signals a larger, more powerful tide, we rise and fall in its wake, surrendering to the possibility of reconstruction and rejuvenation.
Over 270 shimmering pieces of pearl shell and crystal comprise Garry Sibosado’s Oongoonorr, his most elegant comment on the contemporary world to date. His personal reflection on the Milky Way, or the ‘ocean in the sky’, synthesises past, present and future, a comment to us all, and a warning of what is lost when we believe that humans can be separated from the whole. Like a shimmering mirage, Oongoonorr poses the world in its entirety, a spiral motif, with everything cycling in its own motion. Garry’s personal reflection on the interconnectivity of all living things creates a space for reflecting on the insidious speed of corporate development in the state of WA.
What is lost when the spirit of the land is caught up in the speed of development? Oongoonorr gently us asks us to assess our own place in the world.
“Everyone thinks that the world is about humans, it’s not. Did anyone ask the whales if we could shoot them with harpoons? Did anyone ask the lizards if we could clear the land?”
Garry Sibosado is a saltwater Bard man who lives in Lombadina. Lombadina is a small community on the Dampier Peninsula about two hours out of Broome. This is important for many reasons; saltwater people have an affinity with the ocean as master and provider; Garry grew up with his elders and showed a natural talent for pearl shell carving. Once a dirt road, the road up to the Cape is now sealed, seeing more visitors than ever. Reading the ocean and fostering a deep affinity with the sea is Garry’s birth right. For Garry there is no distinction between land and water, there is land under the sea after all. In this way, stories of the sky and the sea are both a science and mythology. Water is a highly politicised space in the Kimberley right now, it is hard to talk about the mythology of water without talking about who wants it.
The ocean is at the forefront of identity for Bard people;
“I was looking at the Milky Way and thinking about the ocean, stories that are in the Milky Way. My people are saltwater people, so this is my perception of the Milky Way”.
Garry describes the Milky Way as the ocean in the sky; using pearl shell that comes from the ocean to create a cyclical comment about this connection. He starts by explaining memories he has as a child, laying under the stars, looking up. These early, and formative moments in time are a metaphor for simpler times. For saltwater people, the ocean is not as mysterious abyss – saltwater people navigate the ocean as expertly as the land, using the sky at night as a compass. Capitalism has destroyed our relationship with the natural environment, however for many First Nations people, artworks like this are a cry for change.
Which brings me to slowing down, the art of slowing down. The work is concerned with the speed at which we all move. When we buy food in packetswe don’t foster an active reciprocity with the natural environment. Each piece of pearl shell in this work is painstakingly cared for and buffed; the natural lustre of each pearl shell exquisitely exposed so that there is no aesthetic hierarchy between the man made and natural elements. The insertion of the ebony brings this point home, that story and science are linked; slowing down allows one to use all senses to perceive the world around them.
“People just need to slow down a bit, listen to the world around you, the ocean, the sky, the land, everything. We are not the only creatures here, it’s not our land to destroy. Before us the land, sea and sky are all connected – we use the sky to navigate the water for hunting, even the moon, the tides are way bigger than normal. We use the moon to hunt at night. Take time to smell the leaves, the ocean, to relax, find the peace, find the balance.”
Most of the time my art is my personal connection with my surroundings and environment – in order to teach others, you must have a strong connection yourself.”
Slowing down implies a holistic approach to life where we see the connections between all living things – do we want balance or destruction? The thirst for greater commerce is at the heart of the Western Australian frontier, since colonisation, the Kimberley has been a site of exploitation and foreign invasion, all in search of economic prosperity.
“I am not an overtly political artist but there is a huge push for new development across the whole of the Kimberley. The spirit of the land is lost through these developments, even the tourism is pushing us to do more and meet the demands of external commerce.”
So, I will leave you with something to ponder, out into the ocean and back again, looking up, with reflections upon the realm of the dead;
“The Milky Way is also the realm of the dead, where all the spirits are. The southern cross for example is the eagle/ hawk, an ancestral being. The bull roarer landed near it when it was thrown into the sky by another being down on earth. We use these stories and names to navigate the sky at night when we are on the ocean. You will say the name of those stars from the story, as a navigational tool. Like we will say, stay on this side of the southern cross, don’t pass that side.”
About the Artist
Born 1987, Boorloo, Whadjuk Boodja | Perth, Western Australia
Lives and works Walyalup | Fremantle, Western Australia
Sam Bloor is a photographer and visual artist from Perth, Western Australia. His practice investigates points of contention within the designation of urban space along
with perceived notions of value and labour.
Bloor has exhibited in a number of group and solo shows both nationally and internationally including, Totem InTribute (2016) in Edinburgh, UK, the Fremantle Biennale (2019) and Rotterdam Photo Festival (2019), NL. Bloor has won multiple awards, including the Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award, and is represented in both private and public collections including the Art Gallery of WA.
Works for sale
A selection of Sam’s Undertow works are available to purchase. Visit our sales page for details.
CURATOR’S REFLECTIONS: SAM BLOOR
‘Borders are the scars of history’, Josep Borrell
Sam Bloor’s newly commissioned works presented within the galleries at Fremantle Arts Centre and off-site on the carriages of the Tourist Wheel at Fremantle Esplanade Park examine our coastline and the oceans that surround as site of asylum for those fleeing persecution, but also as site of nationalism and systemic racism.
Bloor’s works in Undertow, like many in his oeuvre, employ highly-considered text provocations that interrogate Australia’s hard-line stance on border protection – which in summary, is a ferocious defence mounted against any enemy of the nation-state to protect the border, to stop the boats at any cost, monetary, or human. Ironically, these policies are in place to protect a British settler colony established on unceded land, stolen from its rightful custodians less than 250 years ago in a series of human rights violations that continue to this day, both onshore and off.
Within the galleries, in a work of the same name, Bloor offers the provocation ‘that sinking feeling’ at a billboard-like scale, almost five metre in height. A single black line which begins at the opposite end of the room travelling from ground to ceiling on the flanking walls, cutting the space diagonally into equal halves, black below and white above. In doing so Bloor renders a horizon line of sorts, contorting the space in a way that leaves us feeling somewhat submerged, and off-kilter.
While simple, the provocation, ‘that sinking feeling’ is layered and complex, especially so when considered from multiple viewpoints, vantagepoints and worldviews. Voyages across oceans are perilous and often result in tragedy and loss of life. The image of a sinking boat, a familiar sight in media journalism, is easily conjured within our minds. That sinking feeling however is one that we have all experienced. It is that moment in time when we are overcome with dread upon realisation of something terrible having occurred. Our heart races, our breath constricts and a pit forms in our stomach. For Bloor, this is a descriptor of his own visceral response to the ways in which human life is disregarded in the protection of a border, an imaginary line on a map that divides people into two categories, those who belong and those who do not, those whose lives have value, and those who are seen only as a threat to be managed.
For Bloor, the provocations within these works required complexity and the capacity to be interpreted and experienced in differing ways, ways which resonate of nuanced human experience but also of opposing views and of political hypocrisy. Platitudes of nationalism like ‘lucky country’ embellish a mirror, which faces off against another featuring the words ‘illegal bodies’. As we stare into these works, our own faces reflected back to us, we are stuck in the tension of opposing politic and ideology, reflections of simultaneous indifference and empathy and the resulting malaise. We find ourselves trapped and reflected within in an abstracted portrait of contemporary Australia.
These provocations, many of which are drawn from news media articles, interviews and government collateral continue beyond the galleries of the arts centre at Fremantle Esplanade Park, even closer to the Indian Ocean, where they are emblazoned on the carriages of the Ferris wheel that reaches almost fifty metres into the sky. Offered in the same monochromatic treatment seen within the galleries upon bright red carriages with tinted grey windows that travel high, these provocations are transformed into warning signs, particularly from the ocean, warning that the final approach to safety and any imaginings of new beginnings will likely result in an unjust and inhumane betrayal. The arrival lounge for those who have risked their lives to travel to Australia by boat, fleeing persecution and violence, has no welcome signs, no targeted advertising. Instead, many of these arrivals are processed and given onward tickets to faraway prisons on islands including Nauru or Christmas Island.
Mindful of the position from which he critiques, Bloor has spent time speaking with those who have sought asylum here in Australia, seeking to understand the nuance of personal opinions and reflections on Australian policies under which people have been administered. In undertaking this engagement and in having honest and sincere conversations, Bloor notes that for some, gratitude to be living in Australia was their primary reflection. For Bloor, this gratitude mirrors his own sentiment on having been born in what we now call Australia, to have access to clean water, shelter, universal healthcare, within a democracy. Bloor shifts between this gratitude and absolute outrage, between hope and despair, as he encounters and creatively critiques the hypocrisy of border policies and their resultant treatment of people in contemporary Australia.
LUCKY COUNTRY – ILLEGAL BODIES – WAVE OF TERROR – ONE STRIKE – YOU’RE OUT – TIPPING POINT – MELTING POT – SUN-SHINE – GRAVE-YARD all rise and fall in the sky above, rolling repeatedly, like waves breaking upon the shore. While the work can be appreciated from the ground, audiences can also purchase a Ferris wheel ticket for an experience transformed by altitude. Stepping into the carriage, a slight wobble underfoot, doors close and off you go up towards the sky. Your body and gaze are faced westwards, the Indian Ocean before you. As you ascend, the vastness of this ocean space is revealed, as too is your own physicality and vulnerability, but more importantly there is a moment of understanding, of plight and peril, which comes from an alternate vantage point, from seeing things through a lens less familiar.
In the here and now our causes, plights, opinions, and concerns are so easily shared, and reshared. Yet somehow there always seems to be a cause more urgent, more time sensitive, needing more attention than others. We hop off one cause to jump on another, like a ride at the show, like a Ferris wheel perhaps. Our steadfast allyship and our most sincere and heartfelt concern can seem somewhat fleeting, short-lived, insincere, or performative. While it is easy and commonplace to critique a generation of keyboard warriors, at the heart of the matter, is it not true that there is just so much for us to be deeply troubled by, so much to fight for and so many struggles to bring light to, most of which have historically been rendered invisible by oppressive mechanisms of power and control?
Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, 2021
CALL & RESPONSE: ACESSORY BY SHAY AZZARI
The following text was commissioned for Undertow, as a response to the narratives, themes and ideas in Sam Bloor’s recent works.
If we repeat an affirmation together, surely we are bound to increase the chances of manifestation. If I tell you that we’re equal and you echo it back, then that’s probably what we are. Especially if we make eye contact.
A yellow boat, girt by the thick custard curve of a dripping arrow, glugs across the Operation Sovereign Borders website. The icon might signify a circular voyage but it could as easily be the brandmark for a marine recycling program. The vessel, a silhouette of a long jutting bough with a square cabin positioned back near the stern, is a twin to the famed brushed metal trophy beached atop Scott Morrison’s desk.
‘I Stopped These’ says the boat in black title case.
You couldn’t claim that the proclamation had been applied with care – with no true anchor point for alignment, a curvy boat presents quite the challenge for typesetting. Instead, the text bobs somewhere in the middle, slightly askew. I imagine someone at the shop had to make a captain’s call. They may have been hampered by a limited selection of vinyl typefaces in a narrow range of sizes. Sans-serif was a sensible choice, equal parts modern and measured. A serif would be antiquated in contrast to the reflective alloy.
The most recent Federal Budget allocated over $37 million for the promotion of ‘Australian values, identity and social cohesion.’ These values include respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual; English being a unifying element of Australian society; and a ‘fair go’ that embraces the ideals of compassion for those in need and equality of opportunity for all. “We are in this together” is what we say. And we probably are.
I wonder how often the boat gets dusted. It seems like one of those trinkets that you would pick up every so often, like a signed cricket ball or a favourite bulldog clip. I imagine that a man would like to feel that kind of solid weight in their hands or could enjoy gliding the base across the smooth sea of a glass tabletop every now and again. Would you feel embarrassed if someone came in and caught you cradling the boat?
“Embarrassed of what?”
A comprehensive suite of Printed advertising material created for campaigns designed to dissuade people smuggling is available online thanks to a Freedom of Information request. The collateral serves as a survey of rhetoric, a capsule collection of the things we might shout across the sea. There are combative posters amongst the output with choppy desaturated seas, indelicate comics and many pamphlets with many folds for many languages, each boasting of impenetrable borders.
“NO WAY. YOU WILL NEVER SET FOOT IN AUSTRALIA” says a branded key tag, perhaps for the zip of a suitcase or to identify keys to a shared toilet. I wonder if an inhouse designer handled the load of the creative work or if an agency won a tender. It must feel odd to drag a map of Australia under a red sash in the style of a No glass in the pool sign. It must feel strange to register domains like australia.gov.au/zerochance or /novisa. It must.
Our rigid stance on the shore, and the slew of cautionary collateral we produce, reminds them that a deep ocean stretches between us. But what is it that we are actually saying? Can we be both compassionate and hostile simultaneously? Can we speak confidently about freedom and dignity while continuing with mandatory detention, often for years? Can we continue to talk about fairness and equality? We probably will.
Shay Azzari, 2021