Stories of culture and connection are woven into works exhibiting extraordinary talent, in this celebration of First Nations’ artists from the NSW Mid North Coast, coming to Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery from June 12.
The 2021 Saltwater Freshwater Aboriginal Art Award and Contemporary Cultural Objects Exhibition, features work by artists spanning the Worimi, Biripi, Dunghutti and Gumbaynggirr nations, that make up the Saltwater Freshwater region.
This year the exhibition is curated by Alison Williams of Wadjar Regional Indigenous Gallery, who says creating a work connects first nation creatives to their heritage, ancestry and lands.
“It represents the culmination of history and the continuation of story, whether it be through, painting, dance, song, film and crafts,” Alison said.
“Because health and wellbeing within a First Nation context extends beyond that of an individual, it is important to recognise the social, spiritual, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the entire community is supported through the arts and this biennial art award.”
This year’s exhibition includes a stunning showcase of fibre art fashion created by eight weavers from across the Saltwater Freshwater region. Developing their design concepts between the four nations over 6 months in 2020, the weavers overcame distance during COVID-19 restrictions by meeting regularly online to share ideas and provide support. The resulting woven garments showcase refined skills and diversity of expression with materials chosen for their cultural significance including possum skin, paperbark and lomandra.
The winner of this year’s Saltwater Freshwater Aboriginal Art Award is Gus Kelly, for his work titled Narra Dhalayi (Sad Girl), 2020. Using dark and sombre tones, Kelly’s depiction of an Aboriginal child in portraiture echoes fear, loss and stolen generations. Kelly’s unusual caricature-style portraiture reflects the crude perception of First Nation people by early European settlers. Also exhibited are the three highly commended works by Nicolle Duncan, Y.O.W.A and Danielle Burford.
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery has been a touring partner since the award was established in 2017 as a biennial event. Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance aims to encourage a sense of ownership of mainstream gallery spaces by local Aboriginal people, instilling pride in having their culture promoted and celebrated by the wider community.
The 2021 exhibition is open to the public at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery from 12 June to 7 August, launching the gallery’s 20th Anniversary celebrations. The tour then continues on to Sydney’s Boomalli Aboriginal Art Gallery, Taree’s Manning Regional Art Gallery, before finishing at Wadjar Regional Indigenous Gallery, in Corindi Beach.
Pictured above is Winner Gus Kelly with entries Wanha-Wanggati-Nganhang (Don’t Forget Me) (top) 2020 and winner (below) Narra Dhalayi (Sad Girl) 2020.