The TERRA within – Invasion, Resilience and Survival – Shoalhaven Regional Art Gallery: October 9th – December 5th 2020

I was approached by Bronwyn Coulston, Manager of The Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, (Nowra NSW) in March 2020 to curate an exhibition of a collective of yet to be selected Aboriginal artist’s individual responses to the previous 250 years of British Colonisation, first commencing when Captain James Cook sailed up along the south coast of NSW. Bronwyn had consulted with WAMINDA Women’s Health Centre as well as Margaret Simoes, Aboriginal Consultative Committee working with the Shoalhaven City Council in order to gain support from the local ‘Koori’ community for the concept for this exhibition to be endorsed and move forward.

I accepted the request, the challenge and we later discussed possible collections where we Could borrow works from as a starting point in acquiring suitable works for the show: The University of Wollongong Art Collection; Wollongong City Gallery Collection and The Campbelltown Art Centre were identified as being possible supporters of our yet to be named Exhibition, incidentally by now we were in Lockdown mode for Covid -19, and this situation had to be deeply considered. The plan was that we should go ahead as planned and to roll with the punches as far as Covid was concerned and deal with the possible issues that we may face along the way, as they occurred. It was discussed that perhaps this exhibition may have to be delivered on-line.

The GIBBON FOUNDATION had generously come on board and supported the exhibition by commissioning 4 local Indigenous artists to create work specifically for this show. The foundation also supported the design and printing of the catalogue for what by now was being called ‘the TERRA within’ exhibition. Curating fees were also covered by the more than generous Gibbon Foundation.

I created the title for the show as it is a play on words where the TERRA indicates the land and it could also be adapted to speak of the TERROR within Aboriginal people that has impacted their souls as a result of the many varying Governmental Policies that were enacted and brutally inflicted upon our people, during the last 250 years. The land is in our people and so too are the after effects of PTSD and transgenerational trauma.

Work was selected from the UOW, WAG and CAC collections and advertising was presented through local media channels and Social Media platforms to advise all eligible south coast artists to apply for the 4 nominated commissions. Peter James Hewitt claimed the first commission, worth $10,000 and subsequently Kirli Saunders, Jazz Corr and Noel Wellington were rewarded for their efforts by gaining the smaller $3,5000 grants that were also up for grabs. The commissioned works became a very significant component of ‘the TERRA within’ exhibition, adding an enormous amount of depth and variety to this very successful show.

As the exhibition dates began to loom closer I reached out to some well- known city based artists, that I had had the pleasure of working with previously, again to add greater depth and punch to ‘the TERRA within’. Dr Fiona Foley, Jason Wing, Adam (BLAK DOUGLAS) Hill, Karla Dickens and others responded to my request with great enthusiasm and support for the show. In total now we had approximately 44 artists, including myself participating in our exhibition.

SORROW‘ by Teena McCarthy – Inkjet print on silk cloth.


The full list of Artists:

KARLA DICKENS; TEENA McCARTHY; GORDON SYRON; DR FIONA FOLEY; AMALA GROOM; JASON WING; VERNON AH KEE; BLAK DOUGLAS; MERVYN BISHOP; EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE; LORRAINE BROWN; NARELLE THOMAS; JOHNNY BULUN BULUN; VIC CHAPMAN; CHERYL DAVISON; MABEL DUNGAY; JULIE FREEMAN; YVONNE KOOLMATRIE; ALICE McKENZIE; CAROLINE OAKLEY; STEVEN RUSSELL; PHYLLIS STEWART; CHRISTIAN THOMPSON; MARIE McMAHON; ESME TIMBERY; ROSE TIMBERY; PADDY FORDHAM WAINBURRANGA; HARRY J WEDGE; WARWICK KEEN, ELLEN TREVORROW; MARGARET YAM; NARPUTTA NANGALA; SALLY MORGAN; WENTEN RUBUNTJA; ENOS NAMATJIRA; KIRLI SAUNDERS; PETER HEWITT; JAZ CORR; NOEL WELLINGTON; DAVID NOLAN; GORDON HOOKEY; ROY KENNEDY; KEVIN GILBERT; MICHAEL COOK.

Gordon Syron - An Aboriginal Perspective of Sydney Harbour - 2003 -oil on canvas -235cm X 172cm
Warwick Keen pictured with Gordon Syron’s “An Aboriginal Perspective of Sydney Harbour” 2003 – oil on canvas – 235cm X 172cm

‘the TERRA within’ included a vast array of Aboriginal Art styles and techniques, featuring film/video, photography, printmaking, paintings, sculpture, basket weaving and installation pieces. Artworks in the show emanated from many different areas across Australia, it really was a beautiful mixture and showcase of Aboriginal Art from the traditional through to the most contemporary.

Covid-19 restrictions were still in place and so we had to go ahead with the Exhibition opening with only 20 people in attendance. The opening was a great success with Ms Gail Wallace performing the ‘Welcome to Country” speech and Paul McCleod and his family members providing the small gathering with a fantastic cultural dance and musical performance.

A second opening was arranged for those artists that could make the trip and fit their schedules into our agenda, seven people attended this small get together. It was a great afternoon.

‘the TERRA within’ exhibition received an overwhelming positive response during its 8 week showing with almost a thousand visitors viewing the collection. The show did receive a review in the ARTIST PROFILE magazine authored by Ms Brooke Bollard.