‘Across Country’ celebrates the vibrancy of contemporary Aboriginal art made across the country, particularly in the past five years. The exhibition highlights major acquisitions including some notable ‘Jiman’ and ‘Bagu.
Fire-sticks and fire-stick-figures or fire-boards are among the most important objects from Aboriginal Australia as they provided fire and enabled people to hunt, cook, eat, warm themselves and survive. Fire also played a central role in many ceremonies. It was therefore essential that the fire-making tools were kept dry, and nowhere was this as big a task as in the wet tropical rainforests of north Queensland. Here, people made fire-stick bundles which protected the fire-sticks (Jiman) and the receptacle board (Bagu). These boards in this area were not merely utilitarian as in most other areas, being elaborately shaped and decorated, often taking the form of totems or the spirit-god of fire Chikka-Bunnah, who is also seen as falling stars in the night sky. These boards are a unique aspect of Rainforest Aboriginal culture and today artists continue to make Bagu and Jiman, but have adopted interesting new methods to do so. The flat wooden boards have been replaced by full-bodied ceramics, lavishly decorated with personal artistic license, giving them a new life in the art gallery and allowing the artists to continue to practise their culture tell and their stories.
Bagu and Jiman from the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre have been a run-away hit of the past three Cairns Indigenous Art Fairs and are soon to be featured as public art along the entire length of a 301 metre long tilt train. The artists themselves are looking forward to viewing the display when they visit the Gallery in April en route to their next exhibition at Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, Brisbane.
‘Across Country: Five Years of Indigenous Australian Art from the Collection‘ is on show at GOMA until 21 October 2012.