The inaugural Yalingwa exhibition celebrates the significance of family, community and humour in contemporary Aboriginal life.

The Yalingwa visual arts initiative is a partnership between Creative Victoria, Australian Centre of Contemporary Art (ACCA) and TarraWarra Museum of Art (TWMA), designed to support the development of contemporary Indigenous art and curatorial practice. It includes three curatorial positions and three major exhibitions alternating between ACCA and TWMA, focused on new commissions by contemporary Indigenous artists.

Curated by Hannah Presley, the first Yalingwa exhibition features thirteen commissions by artists from south-east Australia and beyond. The works explore the everyday experiences of Indigenous people today, traversing country music icons, queer identity, pop-culture, the legacy of ancestors, community leadership and the importance of coming together to strengthen identity.

A profound respect for the past is articulated in many of the works across a variety of media. Yhonnie Scarce presents intricate, hand-crafted glass objects as ‘gifts’ to her ancestors, while Jonathan Jones’ new site-specific installation acknowledges 60,000 years of connection by celebrating the ubiquitous native budgerigar. Meanwhile, paintings by Western Arrernte artists Vincent Namatjira and Benita Clements – both great-grandchildren of Albert Namatjira – evince personal and historical experiences of indigeneity. Clements’ new suite of watercolours form autobiographical tableaux narrating the artist’s daily life, and Namatjira’s paintings humourously connect people from the present, such as Donald Trump, with historical figures including Vincent Lingiari and Captain Cook. The space between colliding cultures is interpreted by Robert Fielding, a Western Aranda and Yankunytjatjara artist from Mimili community on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, whose photographs, film and installation re-contextualise everyday objects.

‘A Lightness of Spirit is the Measure of Happiness’ unites the traditional and the contemporary in ways that deconstruct conventional dichotomies, seen in Lisa Waup’s new collection of whimsical woven figures and Kaylene Whiskey’s portraits of her favourite music and film stars illustrating the Star Dreaming story of the Seven Sisters. This engagement with popular culture continues in the short film Never Stop Riding by Alec Baker, Peter Mungkuri and Mr Kunmanara Pompey – three senior artists and respected leaders from Indulkana community on the APY Lands. Their spaghetti western draws from the artists’ former lives as renowned stockmen as well as their love of Cowboy and Western films and country music. Similarly, Yankunytjatjara artist Tiger Yaltangki has created bold paintings blending the Pitjantjatjara Mamu (supernatural spirits) with rock ‘n roll icons, while Peter Waples-Crowe’s incredible possum cloak examines his emerging role as a queer Elder in the Aboriginal community.

Another major feature of the Yalingwa initiative is three one-year Artist Fellowships of $60,000 for senior South East Australian First Nations artists who have made an important contribution to the development of Indigenous cultural expression. The inaugural Fellowship has been awarded to Destiny Deacon who, throughout her thirty-year career, has played an influential role in the way the broader community understands and engages with Indigenous art. The Yalingwa Fellowship was decided by an Advisory Group that includes members of the Aboriginal arts and wider community.

A Lightness of Spirit is the Measure of Happiness
7 July – 16 September 2018
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne


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