Traversing new ground with First Nations art & film symposium

Sixteen First Nations artists, curators and filmmakers from Australia, Taiwan and Aotearoa/New Zealand will overcome border restrictions and gather online for a QUT-hosted international symposium from October 7 to 9.

Grounded in Place: Dialogues Between First Nations Artists is a free event that will give interested members of the arts community and the wider public the chance to listen to talks by artists and curators and watch three award-winning documentaries by First Nations filmmakers.

Non-Indigenous scholars and museum professionals from Australia and abroad are also taking part, including Manila-based art scholar and curator Patrick Flores, who is the curator of the Vargas Museum and was the artistic director of the Singapore Biennale 2019.

The event is the first collaboration between QUT and its symposium partners – Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory and Aotearoa’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Australian First Nations artists on the program include Vernon Ah Kee, Leah King-Smith, Mandy Quadrio and Judy Watson.

Judy Watson. (Photo: Rachel See. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.)

Artists Chang En-Man, Akac Orat, Ciwas Tahos and Yuma Taru (one of Taiwan’s top traditional arts and cultural heritage preservationists, pictured at top) will stream in from Taiwan.

And the Aotearoa artists are Ngahuia Harrison, Sarah Hudson, Kaihaukai Art Collective, and Areta Wilkinson on behalf of the Ngi Tahu artist collective.

QUT’s Dr Sophie McIntyre is the symposium organiser and said it was a positive example of how people could collaborate during lockdowns and border closures.

“It’s a platform for cultural understanding, connecting and exchanging ideas and insights, and we hope it will pave the way for future face-to-face engagement,” she said.

Simon Kaan and Ron Bull from the Kaihaukai Collective. (Photo: Jo Moore, Wellington)

Dr McIntyre, from QUT’s Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice, is a scholar and curator who specialises in Taiwan art and has lived and worked in Taiwan and Aotearoa.

“The symposium will explore First Nations artists and filmmakers’ perspectives on and connections to land, as a site and place of belonging, and as a source of learning, sustenance, and creativity,” she said.

“We live in the Asia-Pacific, but generally we know so little about our First Nations peoples in our region.

“Although most of the speakers in this symposium have exhibited internationally, and some have even participated in the same exhibition with each other, this is the first time they will have met virtually.

“We hope this symposium will inspire new ideas, forge new connections, and create opportunities for future cooperation and exchange between Australia, Taiwan and Aotearoa.”

Wesley Enoch is QUT’s Indigenous Chair in the Creative Industries.

Renowned playwright and artistic director Wesley Enoch AM, who is QUT’s Indigenous Chair in the Creative Industries, will deliver the event’s Welcome to Country. The symposium will be opened by the Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Edward Tao, and is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture (Spotlight), Taiwan.

Vernon Ah Kee (Photo: Joe Ruckli)

Dr McIntyre said four panel discussions would take place around the conference theme of connections to land: History and Sovereignty; Land and Community; Site and Materials; and Place and Space.

The conversations will lead to new fields of research and inquiry, which will inform a bilingual publication and exhibition project.

Three documentaries will be available for viewing during the symposium – Maralinga Tjarutja (directed by Larissa Behrendt), Where Has the Land Gone? (directed by Pilin Yapu), and Bastion Point—Day 507 (directed by Merata Mita, Leon Narby and Gerd Pohlman).

The Grounded in Place: Dialogues Between First Nations Artists symposium has been organised by Dr McIntyre in collaboration with Dr Fang Chun-wei (National Prehistory Museum in Taiwan) and Dr Zara Stanhope (Govett-Brewster Gallery).

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