Witnessing Cultural Identities HEAD ON Photo Festival 2018
11 – 27 May, 2018 Articulate Project Space
Michael Jalarru Torres Liz Thompson / Yingiya Guyula Asher Milgate / Jeff Amatto Pam Kleemann
This is an exhibition presenting six perspectives on storytelling from contemporary Australia through photography and voice. Each artist (Indigenous or non-Indigenous) is connected to a community, which celebrates its unique identity and then shares this with us. Each is passionate about communicating cultural and intercultural experiences and viewpoints through photography, sound and education.
What are the responsibilities and issues as a non-Indigenous photographic artist with a burning desire to create social change and work that matters? It is definitely time for non Indigenous Australians to develop the art of consulting and listening to Indigenous Australians in order to truly hear what they have to say. Part of this is to humbly admit to a lack of knowledge and understanding both of history and of our current role in colonial dominance.
The intention of this exhibition is to stir up conversations about these matters while also exploring these different collaborative approaches to art and witnessing.
Artists Liz Thompson (Sydney) in collaboration with senior cultural custodian Yingiya Guyula (North East Arnhemland) and Asher Milgate working in his home town of Wellington, NSW, are portraying communities they have relationship to and because of that relationship, are committed to bringing stories from those communities into the wider world.
Michael Jalaru Torres is a Yawuru and Djugan man from Broome. His vibrant photographic imagery depicts a positive portrayal of the people and issues of his local community. In Jalaru’s case he is perfectly positioned as a photographer to express the Indigenous stories of his own community, for example young women dressed for the annual debutante ball. It is essential that Indigenous community stories areincreasingly told through their own voice.
Melbourne photographic artist Pam Kleemann celebrates the Congolese culture of her late husband, the musician Passi Jo, a direct descendent of the Balari Troubadours of Bacongo, Republic of Congo. Passi Jo migrated to Australia in the 1990s and was known globally for his joyful, uplifting music and dance as well as his colourful style. He is proudly dressed in pyjamas 'La Sape' style, in the hospital setting while he was living with cancer. Kleemann had adopted his culture through marriage, and in this tender and humorous portrayal, she endorses his culture as she honours his life and their relationship.
As a photographer and a curator I was exposed early and indelibly to the politics of being Aboriginal in Australia by being asked by AIATSIS in Canberra as a young photographer in 1986 to document the Aboriginal community in Brewarrina, NSW, for The After 200 Years Project and the 1988 Bicentennial.
This exhibition and others have been driven by my desire to explore and get right the power politics of ones birth and place.
Sandy Edwards, Curator of Witness Cultural Identity