Defying Empire

Recently, Anna, Andrew, and Teffany grabbed an opportunity to attend a tour through Defying Empire with curator, Tina Baum. This is the third instalment of the National Indigenous Art Triennial. The tour also included an information session about related resources and curriculum links for NIAT 3 from the Programs and Education team of the National Gallery of Australia.

Defying Empire
detail from Karla Dickens, Assimilated Warriors

This is a diverse exhibition full of provoking ideas examining indigenous identity fifty years after the referendum of 1967 when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were finally recognised as citizens of Australia. Much of the work looks at how contemporary art practices are connected to a traditional past. From native materials like shells and sedge grass, to video projections, paintings and a collection of altered fencing masks, the work ranges across a huge variety of materials and approaches.

It also starts almost immediately as you enter the gallery with Reko Rennie’s painted Rolls-Royce parked in the front foyer. 

Don’t forget the NGA Play- a fun space for kids to move around and discover ways of interacting with art. Because you can touch things , move around freely and lie down on pillows before you enter the main galleries it’s a nice buffer space for families.

Defying Empire
checking out NGA Play

The exhibition is broken into eight themes;

Forever memory- an eternal connection to the land and its flora and fauna.

Recounting and Revival – acknowledging and recognising the past.

Resistance and Refusal – withstanding stereotypes and challenging popular perceptions.

Defying Empire
Yunggulba (Flood Tide) series by Megan Cope

Disrupting Invisibility -revealing Indigenous histories.

Defying Empire
Black Dog by Archie Moore


Asserting Presence – affirmation of Aboriginal existence in Australia

Defying Empire
Andrew contemplates the style of Assimilated Warriors 2 by Karla Dickens

Rising Passion – rage at injustice

Defying Empire
Captain James Crook by Jason Wing

Bearing Witness- highlighting cultural, political and social issues

Defying Empire
A dress made of seaweed,  kerliggener-leewunna by Vicki West

Defying Empire – encouraging conversations challenging outdated ideologies

This is a simplification of a deep and complex show , only intended to give an impression of the monumental issues and ideas covered in the work. Really you need to see it yourself there is so much going on and so many excellent artists are represented.

We all found it deeply moving and profoundly interesting and encourage you to go check it out. It’s free and on until early September.

Find out more at the NGA’s website.