ANKAAA Chair, Djambawa Marawili at the 2013 World Indigenous Conference

Jeremy Eccles | 03.03.14

Author: Jeremy Eccles
News source: ANKAAA Newsletter

The body that represents Aboriginal art centres in the far North - ANKAAA – is being as dynamic as ever. I've reported before on its collaborative efforts to train up Indigenous arts workers by arranging courses and work experience that include visits to southern art institutions; and its bringing together of conservators from the South with the people who create barks, 3D objects, artefacts and canvases to make sure that both sides understand the technologies and proprieties involved in giving them permanence.

But these are tinkering around the edges, one might say, beside its recent Mt Bundy Statement. Here was a resounding claim to the sort of equality of involvement in political and cultural discussions involving Government that has been so dismally denied by the Intervention!

“We are writing to you from the ANKAAA AGM at Mt Bundy Station, Adelaide River (last November). During this coming together from across the four ANKAAA Regions – Arnhemland, The Kimberley, Tiwi Islands and Katherine/Darwin – we have been talking about the ongoing importance of Indigenous voices, governance and leadership.

About to enter its 27th year, ANKAAA prides itself on its strong tradition of Indigenous governance and leadership. We have not come to this quickly or recently. We offer strong Indigenous governance because of all the hard work that has come before.

Indigenous people have their own way of leadership. Our leaders learn from those who have come before them, and they step up and lead the way for their families, communities and clans. Strong leadership means knowing the past and seeing the future. Traditional governance systems have been handed to us from way back, and these systems come together with contemporary principals of governance in the work we do at ANKAAA. We want to make sure they are handed on to our children and grandchildren.

We have leant how to take hold of our resources. To share our patterns and designs, stories, rules for respect and tools for communication. With these tools we take part in the contemporary economy and participate in the wider world. We have built up our own art industries and created job opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Connections across time, country,culture and language are important to us. Indigenous people have always developed strong relationships and connections with each other, and they are still going strong today.

We the ANKAAA Board are the elected representative voice – the spokespeople for Indigenous artists across Northern Australia. We have been elected the right way and come together regularly across different worlds, languages and cultures to speak with one voice.

We travel vast distances and make many personal sacrifices to meet face to face so we can share our culture, ideas and knowledge, maintain bonds, work together and plan future activities and speak for Indigenous artists. We are the people who have the authority to speak for the land and its people. We come together for those who cannot travel and speak for those whose voice is not always heard.

Instead of somebody talking for us, we talk for ourselves and we want governments to come to us, the ANKAAA Board, directly, and to listen to us. We invite governments to communicate with Indigenous artists and talk to us directly. We will always talk to governments about our people and our future.”

Christina Davidson, CEO of ANKAAA amplified the thrust of this letter: “It is very true ANKAAA¹s board and membership - representing up to 5,000 Artists from 49 art and craft centres - is at the centre of remote Aboriginal life and is properly elected in a properly representative way, so should be approached about everything that matters.

In reality - what we are wanting to say is that it is no good continuing to go through indirect sources to find out what is happening on the ground in respect to Indigenous art and culture, and what the real concerns are. Such people usually don't know and hence have minimal chance of being effective or respected. Aboriginal people with the right knowledge should be in the positions of leadership for Indigenous culture.

The letter has been given to the Prime Minister and to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs by our Chair, Djambawa Marawili – a member of the PM's Indigenous Advisory Council - when he met with them recently”.

Has the PM responded, though??


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Artists: Djambawa Marawili

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