29 May 2024

Kiama gallery showcasing Arnhem Land art exhibition usually reserved for major cities

| Kellie O'Brien
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two Aboriginal women with their art

Evonne Munuyngu and Mary Dhapalany are two of the artists whose works will be featured in the exhibition From the Top Road. Photo: Supplied.

SEVENMARKS Gallery in Kiama is providing a rare opportunity for the Illawarra to view artworks from two neighbouring communities from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory through an exhibition usually reserved for major city museums.

From the Top Road, an exhibition being held from 1 June to 20 July, celebrates connection to Country, ancestors and neighbouring communities.

SEVENMARKS Gallery director Cobi Cockburn said the exhibition title referenced the primary route into Arnhem Land, which granted access to the Bula’bula Arts Centre and the Maningrida Arts Centre, which have been instrumental in bringing the artworks to Kiama.

Cobi said the exhibition would run over two spaces with close to 60 artworks, including sculptural wood carvings (Mimih Spirit sticks), and fibre and woven works from Arnhem Land artists who draw insight and inspiration from the natural and spiritual existence of the Top End.

She said the artworks weaved together stories of the natural environment and reflected on the importance of ingrained practices that include ceremonies, songs, language and family.

“It’s an opportunity for people in regional New South Wales to connect and celebrate some amazing artworks from the Top End,” she said.

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“A curated exhibition of this size is generally only facilitated in major cities.

“These sorts of exhibitions are primarily put on through museums or the large state galleries.”

Cobi said having a close friend who worked at Bula’bula Arts Centre gave her a direct connection and a rare opportunity to be able to work with the arts and cultural centres there.

“I don’t know that we have many commercial galleries around that can really foster or house such a large or significant showing of works,” she said.

“I feel like we’re in a pretty fortunate scenario to accommodate something like this.”

Cobi said each of the two locations where the artworks were coming from prided itself on different art forms.

“Bula’bula really prides itself on its weaving and feels that’s a real stronghold to that area and the pandanus that grows in that area,” she said.

“Whereas Maningrida decided they wanted to put forth their Mimih sticks – they have practitioners and makers there that are highly regarded in that area and have practised that for a while.”

Cobi said the exhibition would appeal to all ages and she hoped school students would take the opportunity to view it.

“Indigenous works are a pretty incredibly honest art form referencing the land and coming directly from it, so I think it will have some takeaways for everybody in that respect,” she said.

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Cobi said she hoped the relationship with the two Northern Territory galleries would allow Kiama to stage an annual exhibition of works.

She said in the future she would also like to bring some of the Aboriginal elders to Kiama for workshops or to speak about the artworks.

Instrumental in helping Cobi bring the exhibition from Arnhem Land to Kiama were Bula’bula Arts executive director Mel George and Maningrida Arts and Culture art centre manager Brooke Ainscow.

SEVENMARKS Gallery is a not-for-profit entity opened in 2022 by a group of artists and makers looking to foster creative experiences and greater experimentation for artists.

From the Top Road is open on Fridays and Saturdays throughout 1 June to 20 July at SEVENMARKS Gallery, 7 Marks St, Kiama, and is free to the public. Those interested in attending the opening event on 1 June from 6-8 pm can register via Eventbrite.

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