Continuity and resurgence: AIATSIS brings focus back to the people in Ngulla Wellamunagaa

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Presented by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Ngulla Wellamunagaa, celebrates the survival, continuity and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as told through sixteen stories that affirm ongoing connections to Country.

These stories embody the essence of Ngulla Wellamunagaa – Trees that Have Survived and Revived. The exhibition includes generous contributions of material from communities, as well as items from the extensive collections at AIATSIS.

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie elaborates, “This exhibition tells the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. It is a story of contribution and success, a story about the resurgence of a robust living culture.

On behalf of the AIATSIS Council, I thank the artists and community members for generously sharing their stories expressed through artworks and other materials.” 

Ngulla Wellamunagaa is a valuable way for the broader Australian community to appreciate the strength, resilience and connection to place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; showcasing the extraordinary diversity and sophistication of Australia's first peoples’ and cultures.

AIATSIS Senior Curator, Pat Williamson, describes Ngulla Wellamunagaa as focused on strong stories relaying the ancestral knowledge buried in the roots of the trees which are anchored to country.

“The strength and vision of the Elders who, like the weathered trunks, survived though ‘hard times’ to ensure that knowledge was passed on. The branches, now growing, reconnect and affirm the continuity and diversity of cultures today, whilst the flowers produce the seeds for the youth to continue the knowledge into the future,” said Ms Williamson.

For AIATSIS, Ngulla Wellamunagaa is more than an exhibition, it is a story of living cultures, artists and communities, reconnecting and sharing their cultural practices with Australia and the world.  Earlier this year, Ngan’gikurrungurr artist Regina Pilawuk Wilson was reunited with her Wupun – Sun mat. As soon as she saw the mat she recognised it as her own work.

“I hadn’t seen this mat for a long, long time … I made this mat maybe forty years ago … The mat found me, it’s not lost anymore,” said Regina Pilawuk Wilson.

Supported by the National Museum of Australia, Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said, “We are delighted to be hosting this exhibition which complements our own Indigenous collections. This partnership is crucial to fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture for all Australians and international visitors.”

A powerful form of cultural expression, Ngulla Wellamunagaa is an articulation of identity, time and place offering audiences an intimate, transformative experience of Australian Indigenous culture.

Ngulla Wellamunagaa will be open from 5 December 2019 until 29 March 2020 in the First Australians Gallery, at the National Museum of Australia. Free entry.

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Last reviewed: 6 Dec 2019