6 May 2024

Coomaditchie: The Art of Place showcases love and struggle in community-owned exhibition

| Zoe Cartwright
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Tess Allas is the curator for Coomaditchie: The Art of Place.

Tess Allas is the curator for Coomaditchie: The Art of Place. Photo: Pamela Amores for Museums of History NSW.

Love letters to and from Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation are on display at the Museum of Sydney until 25 August.

Coomaditchie: The Art of Place incorporates historic documents and art to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation in 1993.

The exhibition is curated by Wiradjuri woman and artist Tess Allas, who was commissioned by the Wollongong Art Gallery in late 2021.

She said the work showcased the accomplishments – and challenges – faced by Coomaditchie, including a family connection.

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“Coomaditchie are a force for good in the Illawarra community,” she said.

“It was important to me that we bring in the history, the good, the bad and the ugly, the struggle for rights and the recognition of our humanity.

“There are historical pieces borrowed from other installations and private collections that show the fight for Coomaditchie.

“Some of those are letters written by my grandfather Jack Tattersall in his campaign to get housing at Coomaditchie, along with the official responses from the NSW archives collection.

“There are three massive unstretched canvasses suspended in the exhibition, with each panel representing a decade.

“I particularly love them – I asked all different organisations, individuals and community groups to come in and leave their mark of what they did on the decade they did it.

“It’s an incredible piece of community art, owned by everybody.”

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The organisation provides welfare and advocacy services for the people of the Coomaditchie settlement, located at Coomaditchie Lagoon and is also active in art projects, cultural heritage and community development programs.

In addition to history, the exhibition also features artworks commissioned from the community, ceramics, and photographs of public works Coomaditchie artists have contributed to the Wollongong region.

Tess said the exhibition, which debuted in Wollongong, was well received and a community engagement session where the broader community was invited in received an overwhelming response.

“Coomaditchie is so well known and loved in the community for public art, community engagement,” she said.

“We saw that at the opening. More than 740 people attended; we literally could not fit any more in the door.

“We have a section of artworks created in sessions where the broader Illawarra community was invited in to paint what Coomadtichie means to them on commemorative plates called ‘Love letters to Coomaditchie’.

“I had to have more sessions than we initially planned for, it was so popular.”

The Sydney exhibition features a map so international visitors can locate Coomaditchie, and tourists are encouraged to visit and purchase artworks directly.

To learn more about Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation and the work they do, as well as to purchase artworks, head to Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation | Kemblawarra, NSW.

For more information about the exhibition, head to Coomaditchie: The Art of Place (mhnsw.au)

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