Museum explores Australia's Balgo region

Aboriginal Art Directory | 24.04.10

News source: Ha Noi News

An exhibition entitled Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills has opened at the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology in Ha Noi.

The largest collection of indigenous works ever displayed in Viet Nam, features 26 paintings by 18 established and emerging indigenous artists of the Warlayirti Artists Art Centre from the remote Balgo region of Western Australia.

The small community of Balgo, known in the Kukatja language as Wirrimanu, is one of Australia's most remote settlements. Balgo is sited on the Dreaming path of Luurnpa the Ancestral Kingfisher, deep in the Western Desert where the Great Sandy Desert and the Tanami Deserts meet.

The painters from Balgo include a generation of tribal elders who grew up in accordance with customary tribal laws and initiations and who made a living from the land. They have a deep understanding of their inherited country and of associated stories and ceremonies of the mythical Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), so they paint in a new and vital art form that blends the old with the new, the abstract with representations of landscapes and the spiritual with the political.
Consisting of contemporary paintings and etchings, this exhibition presents a range of stories that demonstrate the strong connection aboriginal people have with their traditions and the ways in which those traditions are maintained and celebrated today.

Through an acrylic on linen Kaningarra, near the Canning Stock Route, Susie Bootja Bootja tells visitors her own story and memory. The four dome-like forms of this painting suggest a rocky cave close to where Bootja was born in the bush. Her mother is resting in the cave, enjoying a break from collecting bush tucker. Thousands of dots portray tjundar (bush onions) while the black shapes are tjirrilpartja (bush carrots).

Ningie Nanala Nangala uses an etching on paper, Walu, to depict some of her country, located in the southwest of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert.

This country is known as Walu, and is named after the large warniri (rockhole) depicted as the large circle in the centre of the print. Surrounding the warniri and dominating the country are tali (sandhills) as well as smaller warniri and women, represented by the U shapes.

This is the country where Nangala was born and is a place she would often hunt goanna as a young girl, she says.

Fairy tales and legends of the region are also reflected through the paintings such as Nakarra Nakarra, located to the south of Balgo, by Kathleen Paddoon.

This is the site of the important Seven Sisters Dreaming story, a tale about seven sisters who travelled this country during the time of Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), running from an old man who wanted to marry the youngest.

Today at Nakarra Nakarra, a group of hills embodies the seven sisters. The red sections of the painting represent rocky hills while the white blocks of colour are sandhills.

The exhibition has wowed Hanoians. A visitor said he was surprised by the artworks. "I have heard about the Balgo land and tribe but didn't know much about their lives and legends," he says, "the exhibition is like a lively story illustrated by paintings."

The event is a part of a programme organised by the Australian Embassy called Once in 1,000 Years: An Australian Gift to Ha Noi. It will run until May 12 at the museum. — VNS


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Contact Details

Gallery: Warlayirti Artists
Contact: Sally Clifford and Annette Cock
Telephone: +61 8 9168 8960 08 9
Address: PMB 20 Balgo Hills, Via Halls Creek, via Halls Creek 6670 WA



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Gallery: Warlayirti Artists

Artists: Susie Bootja Bootja

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