T Recommends: How to Celebrate NAIDOC this Week

Our new column celebrates NAIDOC Week with Indigenous arts events, contemporary dance, biting comedy and more.

Article by Lucy E Cousins

Installation view of Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories open from 25 June – 3 October 2021 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photography by Tom Ross.
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Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen, University of Queensland Press is out now.
Author Evelyn Araluen. Photography by Stuart Spence.
Author Evelyn Araluen. Photography by Stuart Spence.

An Innovative Debut Book from a Young Indigenous Poet

Poetry is a challenging medium at the best of times, but Evelyn Araluen, who gave the opening address at the last Sydney Writers Festival, seems to be able to use words like wool to weave in any way she likes. In her recently released debut collection of poems and essays, Dropbear (UQP), she explores the complexity of an unreconciled nation interwoven with personal history. “I like poetry that speaks to the many places that I have loved and am connected to and bound to by blood and by history,” she says. A descendant of the Bundjalung Nation, Araluen is no stranger to success despite her young age. Her previous work has attracted a sway of awards, including the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship, and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund Grant. And this book will no doubt pick up a few of its own. Dropbear, by Evelyn Araluen, University of Queensland Press, $24.99. 

The Nagnata x Children's Ground collaboration has produced a limited edition t-shirt. Photography courtesy of Nagnata.

The T-shirt That Works Harder Than You Do

Marlkawo in West Arnhem Land is a community so remote it takes twelve hours to drive to Darwin, accessibility is limited to the Dry Season and early childhood services are three hours away. To raise funds for learning on Country in Marlkawo, Children’s Ground – an organisation led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities committed to creating a new future for First Nations children in Australia – has teamed up with fashion brand, Nagnata. The result is a project titled “Everything Comes From Country” and a limited edition t-shirt. Designed in collaboration with artist Keisha Leon, Waanyi and Kalkadoon woman and founder of Leon Designs (a First Nations owned and operated creative studio), a 100% of profits go towards education, art supplies and a building project for a community art space for the Marlkawo community. $140, nagnata.com

Installation view of Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photography by Tom Ross.
Installation view of Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne. Photography by Tom Ross.

Exploring the Extensive Career of Artist Maree Clarke

While it’s common for artists to favour one or two mediums throughout their career, Melbourne-based artist Maree Clarke has found her creativity in photography, printmaking, sculpture, jewellery, video, glass and more. Over the past three decades the Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung artist has used her multidisciplinary practice to advocate for the reclamation of south-east Australian Aboriginal art and culture. Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories is the first retrospective of her work, spanning not only her artistic career but the full extent of her deep engagement and reverence for Indigenous culture. “This exhibition not only explores Clarke’s extraordinary career, but it also strongly attests to the power of cultural reclamation,” says Tony Ellwood AM, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. “As the first living artist to exhibit at NGV with ancestral ties to the Country on which the Gallery stands, this exhibition is a momentous milestone in the NGV’s history.”  Maree Clarke: Ancestral Memories, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV, Until 3 October 2021, Free.

History Bites Back filmmaker Trisha Moreton-Thomas,and comedians Stephen Oliver and Elaine Crombie. Photography courtesy of SBS.

The Subtle Genius of a Doco-Comedy with Bite

Tackling not only the lack of Indigenous history taught in our schools, but also the boatload of misconceptions about Indigenous culture that still exist in Australia today, History Bites Back (NITV) is a doco-comedy with serious backbone. Acclaimed Indigenous filmmaker Trisha Morton-Thomas has teamed up with director/writer Craig Anderson and comedians Steven Oliver and Elaine Crombie to present a satirical spin on the historical context of Indigenous Australians today, from social security, citizenship and equal wages to nuclear bombs and civil actions. As Anderson puts it, since colonisation “the whitefellas haven’t really known what to do with the blackfellas and the blackfellas haven’t been able to get rid of the whitefellas… and now there’s other fellas, biggest mob of fellas from all over the world sharing this place called Australia.” History Bites Back, 8.30pm, 11 July on  NITV and SBS VICELAND.

Bhenji Ra, Emmanuel James Brown, Miranda Wheen, Zachary Lopez, Chandler Connell, Feras Shaheen, Issa el Assaad, Luke Currie-Richardson and Ses Bero in Jurrungu Ngan-ga, Marrugeku. 2021. Photography by Abby Murray.

Using the Lightness of Dance to Tell the Darkest Tale

With the Sydney lockdown potentially lasting longer than we’d hoped, the only thing to do is plan for the future. Placing bets on August events, Carriageworks resident dance company Marrugeku has just announced the opening of its new performance, Jurrungu Ngan-ga – meaning Straight Talk in Yawuru. The multimedia theatre production, set within a complex large-scale installation, explores the experiences of Indigenous Australians and refugees in custody and inside Australia’s immigration detention centres. While it might not see like the easiest topic to translate into dance, Marrugeku’s cultural team and cast have found a way to express these experiences through innovative choreographing and music selection. “The show reveals how this unique dialogue between Indigenous, settler and refugee perspectives can address the burning issues of our times, investigating that which Australia wishes to isolate and lock away from view,” explains Marrugeku Co-artistic Director Rachael Swain. Jurrungu Ngan-ga, 4 – 7 August 2021, Carriageworks, tickets starting at $40.

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