It is important to understand the power of Aboriginal cultural traditions and ensure they continue to be important in culture today, an art curator has said.
Blacktown Arts is launching an exhibition to celebrate and reconnect with the cultural practices specific to the Aboriginal nations in NSW.
Blacktown Proper Way: Us Women, Us Men celebrates the work of the Darug people, who call Blacktown home, and acknowledges and respects their cultural practices and ongoing custodianship.
The exhibition will be held at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre and run from March 4 to April 2.
It will be curated in two parts: Us Men and Us Women, with Dr Virginia Keft curating Blacktown Proper Way Us Women and Jamie Eastwood curating Blacktown Proper Way Us Men.
Works featured will include those by Aunty Julie Christian, Jayne Christian, Aunty Robyn Caughlan, Darren Bell, Keith Brown and Brad Burrows.
“We really need to always remember that the cultural traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been moving through time for generations and generations,” Dr Keft told Hope 103.2.
“Those cultural traditions continue to be important and very much part of what we do… and acknowledges and respects Aboriginal ways of being and knowing and doing.”
“Art has always been a way of defining culture and talking about the things that are important and different cultural traditions,” – Dr Virginia Keft, art curator
Different roles of men and women
In Aboriginal society, there are clear and distinct roles for women and men.
“Gender roles are often quite distinct in Aboriginal society, traditionally; that doesn’t mean that they’re unequal, they’re just different, so it’s really important to understand that,” Dr Keft said.
“Cultural tradition shifts and changes, but we do need to acknowledge that these parts of Aboriginal cultural tradition are still there, and that those protocols are still being understood and utilised by elders in the community.
“And it’s really important that the younger generations continue to understand what that proper way looks like.”
Some of these differences can be seen in home and family settings, where women create connections and help people understand stories and songlines, Dr Keft said.
Songlines are the Aboriginal walking routes that trace their journey across the country, linking important sites and locations.
Role of art
Art has an important role to play in society, according to Dr Keft.
“Art has always been a way of defining culture and talking about the things that are important and different cultural traditions,” she said.
“Art is often passed down in family groups and they have very particular and distinct meaning, and there is some important protocols around how art is created.”
“Some art tells a story that everybody can know, and other stories and other art can tell a story that are for particular people and particular groups,” – Dr Virginia Keft, art curator
In Aboriginal culture, art has a “really strong place”, Dr Keft said.
“It’s one of the ways that stories are recorded; it tells of important cultural place.”
Some of the ways it does this is through mapping country, telling traditions and indicating special places.
“A lot of those storylines and songlines are written into the art, (but) not always are those stories apparent to people who are not Aboriginal,” Dr Keft said.
“Sometimes they can be really importantly embedded into the art and then not part of what Aboriginal people want others to know about.
“Some art tells a story that everybody can know, and other stories and other art can tell a story that are for particular people and particular groups.”
Importance of listening
To get the most out of the exhibition, Dr Keft suggests that people participate in the public programs that Blacktown Arts is running, where they can listen to the elders.
“Listening is how we learn, listening to the elders speak gives us a great gift, and if we don’t listen, we run the risk of losing that gift of knowledge,” she said.
“They have enormous knowledge to pass on and if we listen, that’s how we get it.”
As part of the public program, there will be a weaving program with weaving circles, where women will talk as they weave.
“They’ll talk about weaving but they also impart knowledge during that; it’s a really important part of what a yarning circle is; weaving and talking is really beneficial to learning,” Dr Keft said.
“Weaving is often women’s work and that process of sitting in a circle and talking is a really pivotal and important way that female elders will pass on information and tradition.”
Throughout the year, there will be a public program of events including cultural art-making workshops, an Elders in residence program and a women’s art space.
The Blacktown Proper Way: Us Women, Us Men exhibition is free to attend and is on between Friday 4 March and Saturday 2 April 2022, at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre, 78 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown.
Also what’s on in Blacktown
Win a family pass to The Blacktown City Show. Hope 103.2 is giving you the chance to win a family pass to the Blacktown City Show on Saturday 12 March and Sunday 13 March 2022 at the Blacktown Showground.