More than a guulany (tree): Aboriginal Knowledge Systems
Monash University’s Brook Garru Andrew and Brian Martin, along with Roslyn McGregor and Kimberley Moulton, will present “More than a guulany (tree): Aboriginal Knowledge Systems” at the international conference of MEG – Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Their presentation will be live streamed via the conference website and will share research about the significance of trees in southeast Australian Aboriginal cultures by honouring Indigenous knowledges and the lived experience of Indigenous peoples. Due to the impacts of colonialism including the removal of cultural objects for colonial collections, the destruction of culturally significant trees, and the forced removal of peoples from their traditional Country, access to our cultural heritage has been severely disrupted. Two of the authors, Brook Andrew and Brian Martin, are both Indigenous artists who for many years have challenged this disruption in their respective creative practices. Both are inspired by the knowledge of trees which surfaces through their relationality with Country, peoples, other beings and cultural practices. The research includes connecting source communities with ancestral objects in museum collections including carved tree sections and shields and identifying living trees and cultural practices that speak to this significance. Through an Indigenous-led methodology, and by using methods of collaborative art and exhibition making, the research aims to articulate the agency of trees in an expanded conception of cultural heritage, and in a reimagining of the future of colonial collections.
The presentation will focus on two carved tree sections in the collections of the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève that are attributed to Wiradjuri Country in western New South Wales. Aunty Ros McGregor will join Brook and Brian to share details of current activities in Kamilaroi Country, also in north western New South Wales. These activities are centred around the Banarway bora ground, where over sixty carved trees were removed in the 1940s by a museum expedition. The community are reawakening cultural knowledge about the significance of the site and creating pathways for healing which includes connecting with some of the carved trees which are now in the collections of Museums Victoria.
This research has received funding from the the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture (SR200201054).
About the speakers
Brook Garru Andrew is an Australian Wiradjuri interdisciplinary artist, curator and scholar who is driven by the collisions of intertwined narratives, often emerging from the mess of the “Colonial Hole”. This practice imagines alternative futures and challenges limitations imposed by ongoing colonial actions to re-centre Indigenous ways of being. His matriarchal kinship is from the Kalar Midday (land of the three rivers) of Wiradjuri, and Ngunnawal on his mother’s father’s line, both Aboriginal nations of Australia. He was Artistic Director of NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, 2020, and is currently Enterprise Professor, Interdisciplinary Practice at the University of Melbourne, Associate Professor in Fine Art at Monash University and Associate Researcher at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Brook is represented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris and Brussels.
Brian Martin is a descendant of Muruwari, Bundjalung and Kamilaroi peoples (Aboriginal nations of Australia) and has been a practising artist for twenty-seven years exhibiting both nationally and internationally specifically in the media of painting and drawing. His research and practice focus on refiguring Australian art and culture from an Indigenous ideological perspective based on a reciprocal relationship to “Country”. Professor Brian Martin is the inaugural Associate Dean Indigenous in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Monash University and Director of the Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab. He is represented by William Mora Galleries, Melbourne.
Roslyn McGregor is a Kamilaroi Elder and the Senior Leader for Community Engagement at Walgett Community College High School and Chairperson Collarenebri Local Aboriginal Land Counci. Aunty Ros is leading important education and cultural initiatives in Collarenebri and Walgett, western New South Wales focused around the Banarway bora ground.
Kimberley Moulton is a Yorta Yorta woman, writer and curator. She is currently Senior Curator, South-Eastern Aboriginal Collections at Museums Victoria and an Artistic Associate for RISING Festival Melbourne. Kimberley works with knowledge, histories and futures at the intersection of First Peoples historical and contemporary art and the archive. She has held curatorial and community arts development roles at Melbourne Museum for over ten years and independently curated across various arts institutions within Australia and North America. Kimberley has written for various contemporary art and museum associated publications worldwide and is a PhD candidate in curatorial practice in the Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous research lab at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.