Bungaree: The First Australian

Art Life , Exhibitions Nov 16, 2012 No Comments

From Carrie Miller

A lot of exhibitions attempt to tackle the sticky subject of Australian history. Not only are they ideologically fraught they have to get over the boredom factor. Happily, Bungaree: the first Australian takes a more interesting approach to its historical subject matter: one of Australia’s most significant curators of indigenous art, Djon Mundine, has curated this nationally-touring exhibition and has chosen some of this country’s best established and emerging Aboriginal artists to respond to the significance of Bungaree, resulting in work which is simultaneously a celebration of history and a subversion of it.

Bungaree was seen as a mediator between English colonists and Aboriginal people, which is why he was selected to travel with Matthew Flinders in that historic voyage to circumnavigate Australia. Bungaree’s position was not only an extremely significant one – he was the first person to be described in print as being an ‘Australian’ – it was also an equivocal one. This makes his life a particularly fascinating topic for contemporary Aboriginal artists who are situated in a culture that claims to be ‘post-colonial’ yet is still struggling to acknowledge even the basic ways in which the past persists in the present.

Artists include Frances Belle Parker, Mervyn Bishop, Daniel Boyd, Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley, Adam Hill, Warwick Keen, Gary Lee, Peter McKenzie, Danie Mellor, Caroline Oakley, r e a, Gordon Syron, Leanne Tobin and Jason Wing.

Until November 25
Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman.
Pic: Fiona Foley, All men choose the path they walk, 2012. Mixed media, variable dimensions. Courtesy Mosman Art Gallery.

Carrie Miller

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