I am a descendant of south-eastern Europe, a prisoner of war refugee and a post-war migrant: a second-generation Australian. I am conscious that while I am Australian, I live on the lands
of Aboriginal Australians. Over two decades, I have sustained
a curatorial practice that honours this awareness. Travelling Australia from the lands of the Gimuy-walubarra yidi people (Cairns, Far North Queensland) to Wiradjuri Country (Albury, New South Wales) and beyond, I have had the opportunity
to experience the places and people of Australia through my curatorial practice. In this mode of working, I am always on someone else’s Country, always a visitor, and grateful to have the opportunity to listen and learn from those whose land I live and work on. I have lost the chance to live and work on the lands of my family’s cultural heritage. I have lost the connection to many of my Elders, as my family were displaced through decades of war. I am conscious of preserving culture through visual representation, oral histories and performance. Although I have been educated through formal methods and channels – holding a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees – written texts are not what I hold close but rather learning through meaningful relationships that bring about conversations and oral histories.
Unwritten texts have guided me. Elders, Traditional Owners and First Nations artists have informed my learnings and practice principles. My practice has been derived from people; oral accounts shared in trust for a different future.
My review takes the form of creative projects (exhibitions, events, commissions) presented in the public realm, created
by community, for community and reviewed by community. Documented through living memory and supported by digital capture (news articles, photographs, publications, websites).
just slow down girl, just sit
Wiradjuri Elder, Uncle Ken Tunny Murray, Wiradjuri
In supporting the development of Wagurra Trail and Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk for Albury City Council on Wiradjuri Country I spent time with Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Ken Tunny Murray and the Aboriginal Men Shed. The notion of ‘spending time’ had two vastly different meanings for Uncle and me. For me, it was about fitting in a yarn between meetings, work commitments and managing staff. For him, it was about the quiet moments, about the unspoken words, about the moments that were created that supported trust. As I was busy trying to fit everything in, he imparted on me a great learning. As I was running around, he said to me, just slow down girl, just sit. I stopped, I sat, I listened. I stopped looking at the time, and I was just with Uncle. Through this relationship, I supported Uncle to bring his Maya Fish Trap sculpture to life. Initially drawn on a throwaway piece of paper, with the support of Darren Wighton (Wiradjuri), Andom Rendell at the Aboriginal Men’s Shed and regional industrial fabricator JC Butko, Uncle’s drawing took shape. In slowing down and sitting down, I heard Uncle and supported him to share his cultural stories.
Keenan, Colleen (interviewer). ‘Untitled: Oral history interviews with Tunney [sic] Murray, Margary (?), Alona Penrith, June Murray, Julie Ferguson, unidentified female, Nancy Rooke and an unidentified male.’ ARM 13.016.01, Albury City Collections.
We can heal through what you do, we can come together and be happy
Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Nancy Rooke, Wiradjuri
From 2010 to 2016, I lived and worked on Wiradjuri Country. At this time, I had the fortune of meeting and learning from Aunty Nancy Rooke. Aunty grew up with a tradition of generosity and the sense of doing the right thing. She gave time to causes for vulnerable people and helped demolish barriers and legislative injustices with stature and respect. Over the years, Aunty and I would make time for each other at least once a month. It would be a mix of yarns in the park (she would be rugged up in sweaters smelling of eucalyptus) and coffee in warm spaces. For Aunty, our yarns were less about my list of items to share and instead about how my work and how what I was doing as a cultural curator could be a process of healing; of bringing together First Nations and non-Indigenous communities around a happy and positive experience to heal the past through the present.
Interview with Elder Aunty Nancy Rooke and her granddaughter Leonie McIntosh on Country at Mungabareena Reserve about the importance of this place and their experiences living in Albury.
Possum Skin Cloak, 2006, ARM 09 212, AlburyCity Collections. This community Possum Skin Cloak was sewn by Nancy Rooke with assistance from various members of the local Indigenous community burining individually designed patterns into the leather. It was worn by Elder Nancy Rooke at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Commonwelath Games.
We, us, mob
Jonathan Jones, Kamilaroi/Wiradjuri
In the process of living and working, we can become consumed in our own lives, in what we deem necessary and valuable and our use of language starts to reflect this. We begin disregarding collective and community efforts that bring things about. When curating Wiradjuri Ngurambannggu (On Wiradjuri Country) (2015), I had the fortunate experience of working with Jonathan Jones. While I took a lot away from this experience, what was not said had the most significant impact. When it came to his practice and way of working, Jonathan did not use the words I, me or my. He was inclusive to the broad contributors who have informed him as a person and thus his practice. He used the words we, us and mob and shared his successes.
You want more blackfellas to attend,
look around you don’t employ any, we do not see ourselves here Richard Bell, Kamilaroi/ Kooma/Jiman/Gurang Gurang
From 2016 to 2021, I lived and worked on Darumbal Country. At this time, I was Director for Rockhampton Art Gallery and when programming for The Gold Award 2018, the Gallery hosted Richard Bell for a conversation with community. At the time, I perceived that with the reputation of an artist like Richard Bell, the attendance numbers should have been far higher. I recall saying to Richard, ‘How do you think we could reach the community better? How can we as a cultural institution be a place where community visits? His response ultimately shaped the strategic direction of Rockhampton Museum of Art (opening in 2022). He said to me. You want more blackfellas here? They don’t feel welcome here, they are not represented here, look around you don’t employ any of us, we do not see ourselves here. Richard’s response resonated with me and I took this and I have kept this as a great learning. I work to change that for the next two years while on Darumbal Country. With the support of Darumbal Enterprises and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Rockhampton Museum of Art has more than twelve identified roles and prioritises First Nations programming. It may have been a comment that Richard has repeated to many people, but it is a comment that I take forward with me in my practice every day.
Richard Bell: you can go now, 4 June – 7 November 2021, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Curated by Clothilde Bulleen, this was the largest solo exhibition of work by artist and activist Richard Bell, bringing together over thirty years of the artist’s practice.
Our people can tell our stories
Traditional Owner, Kristina Hatfield, Darumbal
In 2016 native title determination was made over Darumbal Country and acknowledged as the Darumbal people. In the same year, I relocated to live and work on Darumbal Country and as a result of the native title determination there were clear protocols for work on Darumbal Country. I worked with Traditional Owner Kristina Hatfield, who demonstrated the depth of knowledge and connection her old people and young people have to Country. With her mum Nhaya (Aunty) Nicky Hatfield, they shared their priorities for their people and Country. They instilled in me that Darumbal people are the people who should tell their stories and that first and foremost the voices of Darumbal people should be heard on Darumbal lands. Aunty Nicky and Kristina shared activities and outcomes of cultural priority that they wanted to see on their lands. I was in a unique position as a visitor on Darumbal Country. An Elder was describing what they wanted to see on their cultural lands. One of these cultural priorities came to fruition in 2019. It was to share Barramundi (red-eyed fish), a Darumbal word. Realised as a seven-metre barramundi painting by Uncle Tosi Cora, the public artwork was graphically designed by Jonathan Maxwell and the lighting was designed by Ashley Salta. Barramundi now stands at the heart of Rockhampton alongside Tunuba (Fitzroy River). While the work means so much to so many, particularly the Darumbal people, every time I look at it I hear Kristina saying to me that our people can tell our stories.
After years of fighting, two mountains in Central Queensland on Darumbal Country have been given back their traditional names, as shared by Aunty Sally and Nhaya Nicky.
Raymond Noel Garrett, Nulla Muringa, 2020, 14m
carpet treatment in Jim Webber Reception Room, City Hall, Rockhampton City Council, rockhamptonregion.qld.gov. au/AboutCouncil/News-and-announcements/Latest- News/City-Hall-installation-honours-Darumbal- history.
‘Reimagining Representations: First Peoples Engagement at Rockhampton Art Gallery 2020-2022’. Working closely with local Elders through Darumbal Enterprises to employ First Nations staff in key new roles for Rockhampton Museum of Art, which will ensure more Indigenous perspective in collection and exhibition development and in public programming. Supported by Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.
Bianca Acimovic is an arts and community engagement manager with an eighteen year history working across both public and private cultural institutions and activities. Bianca’s experience is centred on projects and activities that engage skills in project management, strategic development, community engagement, philanthropy development, curatorial and collection services.