Opening of New Gallery at Balingup

Sandra Hill (far right) with her daughter Tracie (centre) and Tracie’s daughters Meeka and Emerald (from left), 8 April 2022. Photo courtesy of Sandra Hill.

I have recently returned from attending the Opening of a new Gallery at Balingup. It was curated by Wadandi-Pibulmun Elder and Stolen Generations survivor, artist Sandra Hill, with the support of family and friends. The long-term exhibition is presented in the Packing Shed on the main road of the town. at  Balingup. Over 100 guests (including 15 Police officers from across the South-West) attended the launch on Friday, 8 April 2022.

The exhibition, which presents a timeline of Aboriginal history across the South-West, comprises didactic panels, artefacts and artworks that forcefully convey through truth-telling the complex experiences of Noongar peoples during the successive periods of pre-colonial, colonial, assimilationist and contemporary life. The displays reflect on the impact of government policies over these periods. It is a moving assertion of cultural resilience and survival.

The didactic panels draw on Sandra’s personal and family documents, Government documents, historical and contemporary photographs, and the like; she selected images and texts from this website in the preparation of a panel about the Child Artists of Carrolup who, despite the appalling living conditions, impressed the world with their art.

Carrolup Native Settlement, as it was then named (today’s Marribank) was, to all intents and purposes, a concentration camp: the children’s art was a clear expression of resistance to Government intervention and control.

As Sandra said in her speech at the Opening,

‘We’re trying to heal. But we can’t do that if you don’t know what happened to us…. I think people need to know that, between pre-colonisation and what we’re doing now, there has been this huge glitch, and it’s a hundred years of grief and hardship and loss of rights…. Regardless of that, we’ve survived and we’re still teaching our culture and passing it on to our kids and sharing it with the wider community.’

What a wonderfully warming and positive day. It was a privilege to be invited by Sandra, and to be involved in some small way. It’s another clear demonstration of the ways this website, that David Clark and I developed and launched three and a half years ago and continue to add to, along with others, is being used by First Nations communities and individuals to tell their stories, in their own ways.

Please go and see this wonderful exhibition!

Sandra Hill, exhibition curator, speaks at the Gallery Opening, The Packing Shed, Balingup, 8 April 2022. Photo: John Stanton.

The didactic panel Sandra Hill created utilising screen grabs from this website and a one-pager from me, 8 April 2022. Photo: John Stanton.

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