Our Statewide Mob
A reconnaissance of the area in the far northwest of the state now known as the APY Lands in 1997, as guests of the three major art centres, marked our first commitment to overcome the isolation, lack of information and cultural differences which had made it difficult for those communities to access government arts programs up to that point.
Accompanied by idealism, naivety and a good deal of trepidation, and through an organic process of communication and decision making quite unlike anything the city dwellers had ever experienced, our visits brought about an understanding that our desire to operate in the region was reciprocated by the communities’ desire to work with us.
The overwhelming message was that maintenance of the duality of culture and art, integral to the structure of community life, is of paramount importance―that Art Centres reinforce cultural knowledge through the production of art/craft and the recording of stories, and the increase in the self-esteem of artists as they learn new skills and participate in both the running of the centres and in the wider industry on the Lands cannot be underestimated.
An historic meeting in June 1997 led to the establishment of Ananguku Arts and Crafts Consultancy (later KuArts), its recognition within the AP Council, and the provision of two arts officers to work alongside each other in a culturally appropriate model of mentoring (Malpa = friends/work together). What followed was a hugely successful Inma Putitja on the Lands for the 2000 Adelaide Festival, Womad 2001 branded with an Anangu artist’s design, onsite Anangu Ngura (People’s Camp), a two-way residency with an international flag artist and Rope Story for Womad 2003.
Following a landmark field trip around the rest of rural SA in 2005, SICAD* was founded to support Aboriginal leadership, project ownership and community wellbeing through the successful participation in the Indigenous art market. Thirteen years later, Our Mob is an annual state-wide exhibition and events program that celebrates the diversity of South Australia’s Aboriginal artists. KuArts, SICAD and Country Arts SA now work in partnership with Adelaide Festival Centre and Art Gallery of SA through Tarnanthi to tell Aboriginal stories that are as diverse as the environments from which they come.
Until recently, nary a day would go by without an Our Mob exhibition being seen somewhere in a South Australian regional gallery.