Cover image of the review

Nici Cumpston, Barkandji people, Old Mutawintji Gorge I-VII, from the series mirrimpilyi, happy and contented, 2023. Adelaide, Kaurna Country. Pigment inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, hand coloured with PanPastel, crayon and pencil. (I-II) (VI-VII) 44 x 120 cm (each); (III-V) 120 x 44 cm (each). Raymond Zada, Barkandji/Barkindji/Malyangapa people, nets, 2023 (detail). Broken Hill, Wilyakali Country; Adelaide, Kaurna Country; Melbourne, Wurundjeri Country, spiny-headed sedge (Cyperus gymnocaulos), 50 x 300 cm (each) (variable). Installation view of Bunjil Place Gallery, 2024. Courtesy the artists and Michael Reid Gallery. Photo: Christian Capurro

ngaratya (together, us group, all in it together)

18 May 2024
3 May - 28 Jul 2024

ngaratya (together, us group, all in it together) is a touring exhibition. It began its journey at Bunjil Place—Narre Warren on Boon Wurrung/Bunurong Country in 2023—but I am viewing it on Barkandji/Barkindji Country in far western New South Wales. Curated by sisters Nici and Zena Cumpston, the show features their work with four artists connected through kinship and Barkindji heritage. Adrianne Semmens and Raymond Zada are blood relatives of the curators, while David Doyle and Kent Morris are collaborators with the artists, also sharing Barkindji heritage.

The show begins with a welcome space, which establishes many of the key themes explored by the six artists. At the center is a knee-height table with photobooks, newspapers, and a biscuit tin of family photographs. The content of the newspaper reflects the significance of Country as a participant or co-creator in the project, specifically the significance of the Baaka-Darling River, or Baaka, as it’s known in these parts. The health of the river system remains subject to the policies and controls of government organisations somehow intending to balance the needs of agribusiness, downstream irrigators, and the environment, among others. Zena Cumpston’s latest publication Plants can be picked up too, foreshadowing the focus of her artworks. The photobooks tell the story of the exhibition’s development from the perspectives of the creators who have spent time on Barkindji Country (also spelled Barkandji or Paarkantji). Together they visited significant cultural sites and met with Elders during several trips in 2022. These are family albums, an important backstory to the exhibition, but also a kind of family history in six parts. It’s the viewer’s job to work out the connections and spot the familiar faces.

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