Recently I made it to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra where I visited the 3rd Indigenous Art Triennial: Defying Empire. This powerful showcase of contemporary Australian first nations visual art is not to be missed, so go and see it before 10 September 2017!
Jonathan Jones, a Sydney-based Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist, collaborated with students from CSU’s Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage on a soundtrack to accompany nguram-bang-dyuray (country having).
I decided to have a yarn with Jonathan to find out more about the collaboration:
Can you describe the series of works that make up nguram-bang-dyuray (country having)?
nguram-bang-dyuray (country having) is a collection of images of Wiradjuri towns from old newspapers from the 1800s. I have carved out an element from the image, so carving into a western antique / form of knowledge, and replacing the carved out section with murru (designs).
I collected a few of them and I think there are about 44 images altogether. The work is showing people the size of Wiradjuri country and all the towns that are on our country, while also showing that our presence hasn’t gone away, we were always there and always will be. In fact these towns are highly significant in our culture as most Wiradjuri identify ourselves or our family connections to a town. The prints were hung on the wall corresponding to our country, so towns in the west on the left and towns in the eastern part of our country to the right.
The idea of traveling through country, moving through our landscape was important. This movement happened before invasion, after invasion and is still happening.
Knowing our country, and making sure others know our country / sovereignty is really important. This naming and defining of ourselves is about self-determination.
The accompanying sound was created with Uncle Stan Grant Senior and in collaboration with students of the CSU Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage. How did this collaboration come about?
The song is a song I wrote with Uncle Stan … and it’s a really simple song that helps you remember your ‘to’ and ‘from’ suffixes. Unc was really happy with the song and was keen to take it to the CSU students as part of their course and get them to record it, he was keen to use it as a teaching tool … and to share knowledge (one of his key messages). So, we took it to the students, explained the concept, and they all said yes (as long as they could have the song for their own personal collection).
What do you feel community engagement and collaboration adds to the work?
The process of collaboration is really important for me. Most of my works are made in collaboration, the process fits Unc’s message of sharing knowledge. My hope is the collaboration with our mob will help to learn our language and how it can be put into action and celebrated.
For this work it was really important, it’s about Wiradjuri country and knowing the many Wiradjuri towns / communities … so it needed many Wiradjuri voices.