Cattle Station Christmas with Keringke Arts, Ngukurr Arts & Culture and Tangentyere Artists

The Koskela Gallery is thrilled to present our final exhibition of the year, Cattle Station Christmas in collaboration with Keringke Arts, Ngukurr Arts & Culture and Tangentyere Artists.

Cattle Station Christmas highlights the significant role of First Nations peoples within the history of Australian cattle stations as local knowledge holders and traditional custodians of the land. This body of work playfully captures the rigours of station life from a First Nations perspective, featuring a series of sculptural pieces, canvases, and prints from across the Northern Territory.

Each artwork is a unique expression of the artists' experiences and memories of place with a few reoccurring motifs throughout, be on the lookout for windmills, cowgirl boots and hats! The proceeds from these works proudly support the community owned art centres. 

Cattle Stations have played an important role in First Nations history. A notable chapter was the Wave Hill protests in 1966, which were an instrumental part of the Land Rights movement and shone a much-needed light on the exploitation of Aboriginal people on cattle stations.

Vincent Lingiari was an Aboriginal stockman and land rights leader. Born in 1919 at the Victoria River Gorge, Northern Territory, to Gurindji parents. From the age of 12 he joined his parents at work on Wave Hill cattle station, a whopping 9056 square kilometre property.

Shockingly, it wasn’t until the age of 34 in 1953 that Lingiari was paid a small amount for his labour, at which time he had become a highly respected Gurindji law boss. Thirteen years later, after tiring of being ‘treated like dogs’, Lingiari led two hundred of his people to walk-off in protest, demanding better pay and rations and the protection of Aboriginal women.

This moment in history was vital in the lives of all Australians, as it led to a nine-year-long protest which played an important role in the Land Rights movement.

“My name Vincent Lingiari. Come from Daguragu, Wattie Creek Station . . . I have come here to tell the Parliament about the land rights. I got stories from my old grandpa that the land belonged to me, Aboriginal man, before all the horses and cattle came onto that land. I’ve got that story on my mind.”

On 16 August, 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured a handful of red soil into Lingiari’s hand to symbolise a legal transfer of 3236 square kilometre of Wave Hill station to the Gurindji people for residential and cultural purposes.

Lingiari’s legacy continues today, in 2001 the Lingiari Foundation was formed to promote reconciliation, Indigenous rights and develop Aboriginal leadership.

Much of Australia's cattle station history is built off the back of First Nations peoples and their deep understanding of the land and skills, which were ultimately exploited during this time. We aim to celebrate their contribution and amplify their voices through art in our current exhibition.

Take a closer look at the artworks

 

Keringke Arts

Founded in 1989, Keringke Art Centre is situated in the community of Ltyentye Apurte in the Central Australian region of the Northern Territory. Keringke Arts was named after a nearby ancient rock-hole that was formed when an ancestor Kangaroo travelled through the Country.

The artists of Keringke Arts are heavily influenced by the stories and imagery of the vast country surrounding the centre. This influence has informed their use of age old motifs and imagery which they explore through a contemporary lens and mediums. 

Both Johnny Young and Chris Wallace share rich stories of station life by taking physical elements from the area to create playful sculptures.

Johnny Young harnesses reclaimed scraps from cattle stations to create unique representations of his life growing up on Ltyentye Apurte. His first experience as a stockman was as a young man breaking in horses and camels. However, his aptitude for making and creativity was quickly channelled into leather-works for saddlery and craft.

In his spare time he would create bush toys from scrap materials around the station, which later became his key artistic focus. Johnny has an incredible ability to transform trash into treasure, with the wealth of detail and intricate construction of these works reflecting his deep knowledge of country and connection to the land.

Ngukurr

Situated alongside the banks of the Roper River in Southeast Arnhem Land, the town of Ngukurr and the art centre alike have become a gathering place for many different language groups. Home to many established and emerging artists, Ngukurr is known for its adventurous and playful expression of art grounded in storytelling.

We are honoured to have a feminine perspective of cattle station life from our two participating artists from Ngukurr Arts, Jill Daniels and Gwenneth Blithner.

Jill Daniels

Jill Daniels

Gwenneth Blithner

Both Gwenneth and Jill come from families of artists and have made a name for themselves in the community. Gwenneth paints the landscape of Ngukurr through her own eyes, full of colour and vibrance. She closes her eyes before painting, claiming that, 

“I like to think about this place and paint more…painting makes me happy, I like painting pretty flowers”.

Jill tells practical stories of cattle station life through her own perspective by exploring playful motifs with vibrant colours. 

The stockman are looking after the cattle in the yard. Some stockman with the horse go and look for more cattle, they are having a talk outside the yard, talking to each other on what they are going to do.

First Nations Models Lauren Davies and Zoe Sims holding the works of Gwenneth Blithner and Jill Daniels

Tangentyere

Tangentyere Arts is an Alice Springs based Aboriginal owned and run Art Centre supporting around 400 artists. The unique quality of Tangentyere Artists is that it represents the breadth and depth of Central Australian cultural diversity. 

Tangentyere Artists provides a platform from which artists can express themselves, their lives, and cultural values, while enriching their community wellbeing and family livelihoods.

We have a wide range of artists and styles from Tangentyere contributing to Cattle Station Christmas. They include, Dan Jones, Louise Daniels, Rhonda Napanangka, Sadie Clare Richards, Marjorie Williams, Elizabeth Douglas, Nora Abbott and Joanne Napangarrdi Wheeler.

Each one explores their own experiences and perspectives of cattle station life, their country and sense of self.

Marjorie Williams with Illararra Temp 
Downs in the Olden-Times

Marjorie Williams with Illararra Temp Downs in the Olden-Times

Marjorie Williams painting Two Eagles Illirara on Tempe Downs Station

This is the place at Illirara and the wild people when they was travelling and they saw the place where they can build a little humpy and stay there. And there was the ladies out digging witchetty grubs sitting down under the trees (mid left of painting) and the few ladies with a child (mid right) that got witchetty grubs and they going home to that place and there was a man with kangaroo (front far right), bringing back kangaroo on his head, and some women had goannas, and some bush tuckers, while the old men had a meeting between them, these old men telling stories, and they got biggest mob of spears, boomerangs, and when they finish boomerang and all that they just put it in the top of the humpies. And they got some water.

All the little ones was happy to see the old people and this little one as crawling because this goanna was already dead (left foreground). And that's where they was staying. And the birds, the little birds, trying to fight off the eagles with the little ones doesn't like eagles to come round, because the eagles eat them and their young. Family from out bush, olden times.” – Marjorie Williams explaining her work, Illararra, Tempe Downs in the Olden Times.

Nora and Sadie painting

Nora and Sadie portrait

We were so inspired by Cattle Station Christmas, that we decided to develop a timeless range of merchandise, making the works accessible for everyone. 

We developed a range of organic cotton kids and adults T-shirts along with hats and accessories to bring artwork from Ngukurr Arts & Culture and Tangentyere Artists to life. 

References List

  • Art Mob, Johnny Young, Artist Profile, https://artmob.com.au/artist/johnny-young/  
  • Keringke Arts, About, https://keringkearts.com.au/about/ 
  • Ngukurr Art Centre, https://ngukurrarts.com/ 
  • Tangentyere Artists, About us, http://www.tangentyereartists.org.au/about-us/
  • Ted Egan, 'Lingiari, Vincent (1919–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/lingiari-vincent-14178/text25190

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