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Landmark project to map Pilbara’s Aboriginal art movement

Oct 9, 2020

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan MLC with artist Judith Anya Samson.

Corban Clause Williams with his art

Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation Chair Melvin Farmer with Martmuli artists

Packed crowd at the opening of 'What Now?'

A landmark project will map the Pilbara Aboriginal art movement for the first time, providing insight into the development of the region's unique Aboriginal art, artists and art centres.

The Pilbara survey, which has been funded by the McGowan Government via the Regional Exhibition Touring Boost for almost $1.3 million, is a multi-artform project that will support and celebrate the region's Aboriginal art landscape. It will culminate in a series of regional, State and national touring exhibitions between 2020 and 2023, promoting the richness of the Pilbara's contemporary Aboriginal art movement to global audiences.

The project's first exhibition, What Now? The next generation of Martumili artists, opened last night at The Goods Shed, showcasing works by Martu artists from across the East Pilbara. The exhibition is on until December 20,2020.

The Pilbara Survey is part of the $8 million Regional Exhibition Touring Boost (RETB), which is administered by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Art on the Move and is increasing arts activities in WA's regions.

The project will also provide training and mentorships, workshops and on Country trips for artists and their communities, providing economic, professional and cultural development opportunities.

Aboriginal art centres will also be able to build their digital capabilities and capacity by improving automated systems to preserve and provide access to their works and support business operations.

The Pilbara survey was initiated by FORM in collaboration with the participating artists and art centres and will include a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA, planned for 2022.

It has been made possible through the support of BHP who have partnered with FORM for 15 years in the Pilbara, the Pilbara Development Commission, the City of Karratha, Lotterywest, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program through the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

Comments attributed to Culture and the Arts Minister David Templeman:

"This project celebrates the richness of the Pilbara's spectacular contemporary Aboriginal art scene and is a project of national and international significance.

"The Pilbara survey will promote the region and its artists to new audiences across Australia with exhibitions across the regions and at our State Art Gallery.

"The RETB is continuing to support arts activity in regional communities, supporting social, cultural and economic growth."

Comments attributed to Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan:

"The Pilbara survey will enhance economic opportunities for Aboriginal people in the Pilbara by increasing access to income and employment opportunities - a key objective of the RETB.

"It will showcase the unique and unparalleled talent that exists within the Pilbara region.

"FORM has an excellent track record of bringing positive outcomes to the Pilbara through arts and cultural activity, so I can't wait to see the exhibitions come to fruition."

Comments attributed to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt:

"The Pilbara survey will celebrate the diversity of culture, showcase Country, and preserve knowledge via the commissioning of artworks and stories that will be accessible for future generations.

"It will also nourish social wellbeing and identity by fostering a sense of pride and empowerment through the intergenerational transfer of knowledge and culture. This particularly impacts young people by bolstering their sense of place and belonging.

"The project engenders reconciliation by encouraging a greater awareness, appreciation, and respect for Aboriginal art and cultures."

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