Journeys under a shared sky, across vast seas, to the continent we now call Australia, some revealing the terror of slavery, others focussing in on early migration histories, are offered alongside cinematic depictions of contemporary First Nations ritual, spirituality and power in Other Horizons.

Comprised of three independent artist projects, Other Horizons presents the work of South Sudanese artist Atong Atem, Gunditjmara and Djabwurrung artist Hayley Millar Baker and Australian South Sea artist Jasmine Togo-Brisby, celebrating the works of First Nations women and Women of Colour. Other Horizons offers consideration and nuance to discussions around sovereignty, the colonial adventure, migration, national identity and belonging in contemporary Australia.

Banksia by Atong Atem, commissioned by Rising Festival (Melbourne, 2021), reveals early histories of African settler migration to Australia with the first fleet. Created during a residency to the Migration Museum in Naarm (Melbourne), South Sudanese artist Atong Atem’s work explores these early diasporic movements through cinematic, opulent and timeless filmic and photographic work. In approaching these narratives from a non-Eurocentric vantage point, Atem unpacks notions of ‘Australian-ness’ and belonging, mythologies of national identity and the history of migration policies in Australia.

Abyss, a solo exhibition of recent works by Australian South Sea Islander artist Jasmine Togo-Brisby explores South Sea Islander identity and history and interrogates plantation colonisation, blackbirding practices and slavery within the Australian and Pacific context. Abyss showcases Togo-Brisby’s interdisciplinary approach to revealing personal and painful recent histories while also highlighting the formation of new cultures and identities in the bellies of slave ships. Alongside a significant body of existing works, Togo-Brisby will also present an ambitious new commission, taking over the art centre’s main gallery.

Nyctinasty, a recent filmic work by Gunditjmara and Djabwurrung artist Hayler Millar Baker, speaks to spaces between the physical, emotional and spiritual realms, the in-between spaces that First Nations people occupy simultaneously. In the Western Australian premiere of this filmic work, originally commissioned for Ceremony: The 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial (National Gallery of Australia, 2022), Millar-Baker centres female strength and power, utilising and challenging horror film tropes of female psychosis through purposeful revealing of a strong, open and resilient protagonist, grounded in her own magic and ancestral connection, played by Millar Baker herself.

Collectively, the three projects comprising Other Horizons explore varied experiences of, and reflections upon, belonging in the context of Australia. From enduring attachments to Country founded in thousands of years of custodianship, to those borne of the colonial adventure or more recent diaspora, Other Horizons is a timely reminder of the many ways we connect with and belong to this place we call Australia, and the stories which comprise a complex, and often fractured national identity.

About the artists

Image courtesy the artist and MARS Gallery

Atong Atem

Atong Atem is an Ethiopian born, South Sudanese artist and writer living in Naarm (Melbourne).

Atem works primarily with photography and video to explore migrant narratives, postcolonial practices in the African diaspora and the exploration of identity through portraiture.

Atem has exhibited her work across Australia, including at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), MUMA Monash, Gertrude Contemporary, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Internationally at Photo Basel, Red Hook Labs in New York, Vogue Fashion Fair in Milan and Unseen Amsterdam art fair.

Atem was the recipient of the inaugural La Prairie Art Award from the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2022, as well as NGV and MECCA M-Power scholarship in 2018 and the Brisbane Powerhouse Melt Portrait Prize in 2017.

Image courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery

Hayley Millar Baker

Hayley Millar Baker is a First Nations (Gunditjmara/Djabwurrung) woman born in Melbourne. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (2010) and Master of Fine Arts (2017) at RMIT University.

Through examining the role our identities play in translating and conveying our experiences, Hayley works across photography, collage, and film to interrogate and abstract autobiographical narratives and themes relating to her own identity. Her oblique storytelling methodologies encourage us to embrace that the passage of identity, culture, and memory are not linear, nor fixed.

Hayley’s works are held in significant public institutional collections across Australia, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Hayley has been a finalist in several prestigious national art prizes including the Ramsay Art Prize (2019 and 2021), Bowness Photography Prize (2021), John Fries Award (2019) and international prizes including Hong Kong’s Sovereign Asian Art Prize (2021), and United Arab Emirates Vantage Point Sharjah 9 (2021), and has won the John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship for the National Photography Prize (2020), the Darebin Art Prize (2019), and the Special Commendation Award for The Churchie National Emerging Art Prize (2017).

She was selected as one of eight artists to exhibit in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Primavera: Young Australian Artists (2018) and has been awarded several residencies including the Artist-in-residence at Monash University Prato, Italy (2022), the First Nations Residency at Collingwood Yards (2021), the Photography Fellowship at the State Library of Victoria (2019). Hayley was a feature artist in PHOTO2021: International Festival of Photography (2021) and has exhibited in other art festivals including the International Ballarat Foto Biennale (2017), and Tarnanthi (2017). Hayley will present a new commission for the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia (2022).

In 2021 Hayley presented her first early career-survey There we were all in one place at UTS Gallery, curated by Stella McDonald. The exhibition brought together five pivotal bodies of work from Hayley’s early career for the first time, to tour Australia in 2022.

Photography by Nadai Wlson

Jasmine Tobo-Brisby

Jasmine Togo-Brisby was born in Murwillumbah, New South Wales in 1982, she was raised in Townsville, Queensland from the age of 8.  She studied at the Queensland College of Art, Australia and Massey University, New Zealand (BFA 2018, MFA 2022).

Togo-Brisby has a research driven practice which examines the historical practice of ‘blackbirding’, the romanticised colloquialism for the Pacific slave trade.  She delves into her own personal history and that of the Pacific slave trade, which saw her great-great-grandparents taken from Vanuatu and transported to Australia in 1899 under slave-labour policies employed by the Australian government.  As a fourth-generation Australian South Sea Islander her works address the complexities of contemporary South Sea Islander culture and identity.  She investigates complicated relationships of power, cultural identity and political systems and continues to build upon her research and artworks employing, installation, painting, lens-based media and sculpture.

Togo-Brisby sustains an on-going dialogue within contemporary discourse where she is committed to including South Sea narratives and identity globally.   She has presented at international conferences including; 2019 Fiji International conference on forced labour & migration; 2020 Princeton University: The Global Plantation Symposium; 2021 University of Oxford: Women, Memory & Transmission Postcolonial Perspectives from the Arts and Literature, amongst many others.

Togo-Brisby is represented by Page Galleries and her works can be found in numerous public and private collections throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Other Horizons is presented in association with Perth Festival

Perth Festival Logos 2021