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The NGA’s CEREMONY: An Art Educators workshop at Shepparton Art Museum

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SAM / NGA Ceremony Teacher Learning Program

SAM / NGA Ceremony Teacher Learning Program

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ABOUT Ceremony + The 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial

From the publication Foreword by Nick Mitzevich, Director – National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia is proud to present the fourth iteration of the National Indigenous Art Triennial, titled Ceremony. The exhibition is curated, and this publication edited, by National Gallery Senior Curator-at-large, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Hetti Perkins (Arrernte and Kalkadoon peoples), one of the country’s most celebrated and experienced curators.

Ceremony brings together more than 35 artists from around Australia whose work highlights the primacy of ceremony in their practice and how it connects to community, culture and Country. Featuring newly commissioned works from across the continent, Ceremony represents the diverse practices of First Nations artists in this country, from large-scale installation, performance and video, to ceramics, carving, weaving and photography.

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CeremonyTeacher Professional Learning Program – An Art Educators workshop at Shepparton Art Museum

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WORKSHOP STRATEGY: The intent of the Teacher Professional Learning Program is to develop capacity for educators in engaging with First Nations visual arts practice using Ceremony, the National Gallery of Australia’s National Indigenous Art Triennial (NIAT) traveling exhibition, as a reference point.

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Anni Jane Linklater, SAM Education Coordinator, opened the event with an Acknowledgement of Country and we were introduced to the NGA teams facilitating the program including members from the curatorial work group, the education representatives and attending artists exhibited in the exhibition.

In the Teacher Professional Learning Program at SAM

In the Teacher Professional Learning Program at SAM

With our fellow art educators and other art community representatives the program began with a short lecture session discussing the issues and framework for educational programs and presentations on First Nations art and artists. In this presentation Kelli Cole (NGA First Nations Curator), Aidan Hartshorn (Ceremony Exhibition Curator) and Belinda Briggs (SAM First Nations Curator) discussed the importance of the NIAT to the Australian National Gallery, ‘the significance of commissioning new work, First Nations perspectives and engagement as key National Gallery priority’.

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Kelli Cole discusses - Yarrenyty Arltere Artists and Tangentyere Artists-Blak Pariament House

Kelli Cole discusses Yarrenyty Arltere Artists & Tangentyere Artists, Blak Pariament House (detail), 2021

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In the next part of the program we undertook a floor talk with Kelli Cole and Aidan Hartshorn. Also in this session we were introduced to artist Penny Evans (K/Gamilaroi people), who talked about her work in the show – Burn, 2021. Aidan Hartshorn spoke about his personal connection with his language that was referenced in S.J Norman’s (Wiradjuri people), Bone Library, 2012-2021.  The floor talk was both informative and inspirational. We were invited to ask questions and add our thoughts to the interpretation of each of the artworks.

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Some of the discussion topics included were:

  • Rather than use of the word “Country” in discussing the artist and their art, which was not advised, instead “Place” was suggested as an alternative term. In using the word “Place” the presenter shows they understand and respect the deep and layered meaning embedded in the word “Country” for First Nations’ culture.
  • Research the artist; their story, history and approaches to their art before presenting to give an informed discussion.
  • Always use the artists’ words where possible, if not, draw upon the curators’ information.
  • Bring creative interactive activities; sensorial and conceptual connections and empathy to the experience of the work for the audience/students.

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Penny Evans-K/Gamilaroi people discusses her work BURN, 2020-2021

Penny Evans, K/Gamilaroi people, discusses her work Burn, 2020-2021

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After morning tea we worked under the guidance of artist Penny Evans in shaping malleable brown clay into small objects to reference the banksia or other forms of nature. Evans created an inclusive, relaxing, meditative space for the participants in their creative work. While working we discussed issues of contemporary education and the importance of using hands in teaching and learning across a variety of subjects beyond art. We were all in agreement that this is a fundamental mode of education to empower students to communicate and work through the development of ideas and knowledge.

Penny Evans in her clay workshop

Penny Evans in her clay workshop

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After a working lunch in SAM’s Café, Leanne Waterhouse discussed that the NGA were in the process of refining a framework with which First Nations art and cultural issues could be presented. She introduced the provisional draft document entitled The Art Ways of Learning Principles which outlines a values-based approach for best practice and engagement in the National Gallery of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts program and broader learning programs. The principles consist of 5 themes or “pillars” that outline concepts including the values and characteristics of the framework as follows (from the lecture slide):

  • Encouraging deep listening and thinking
  • Centring First Nations artists voices
  • Elevating First Nations arts diversity
  • Creating memorable experiences
  • Promoting living culture(s) of First Nations people

As educators we were encouraged to consider these Principles and their connection with ‘Indigenous ways of Knowing, Being and Doing’ when we are communicating with others about culture and art.

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Joel Bray, Wiradjuri people, Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri, 2022

Joel Bray, Wiradjuri people, Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri (the wind will bring rain), 2022 (fragment of video)

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Finally, under the guidance of Noah Watson, NGA First Nations Learning Facilitator and Leanne Waterhouse, we were asked to form two separate groups and prepare a presentation each focussing on a different artwork. One group was given Joel Bray, (Wiradjuri people), Giraaru Galing Gaanhagirri (the wind will bring rain), 2022: an installation of TV screens in which the audience is engaged with the artist’s performance of a dance where his body becomes transparent merging his movement with images of his country.

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Discussing Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, Gumatj people, Maralitja, 2021

Discussing Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, Gumatj people, Maralitja, 2021  (constructed image)

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The other group discussed Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, (Gumatj people), Maralitja, 2021: an installation of 3 large-scale screens that engaged the audience with a video of waves breaking on the beach from a ground level perspective. During the video there were segments of ceremony and meaning that connected to the artist’s life, his totem, Bäru (the crocodile) and his story in Place.

Through our deep immersion in the Ceremony exhibition through this program we were challenged, inspired, and at times deeply moved by the sharing of knowledge/knowing. This workshop has enhanced both our teaching and learning experience in the engagement with, and discussion of the art of First Nations Peoples. We wish to acknowledge the Shepparton Art Museum for hosting the event and exhibition as well as the National Gallery of Australia for their initiative with the National Indigenous Art Triennial and the opportunity for regional artists and educators to connect with such an informative program.

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Drs Victoria Cooper + Doug Spowart

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4th NIAT - CEREMONY Online Publication

4th NIAT – CEREMONY Online Publication

FOR MORE INFORMATION VIEW THE ONLINE PUBLICATION: “CLICK” HERE

CEREMONY NGA TOURING EXHIBITION

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.Images of the workshop and gallery installation ©Doug Spowart 2023
All other copyrights reside with the artists whose works were represented in the Ceremony exhibition

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