Dreaming in Dartmouth

We’ve gone north to Hanover, New Hampshire (almost in Canada!) and Dartmouth University, where the Hood Museum of Art, under the direction of Brian Kennedy, is the second venue for the exhibition of Aboriginal women’s painting, Dreaming Their Way. In conjunction with the opening of the show here, Kennedy has organized a conference, which kicked off Wednesday night with a keynote address by Fred Myers, entitled “Censorship from Below: Aboriginal Acrylic Painting in the Borderzones.” Among of the highlights of Fred’s lecture were a couple of short clips of archival footage shot by Ian Dunlop in the early 1970s, but never edited into a film for general release. Fred was been working to “repatriate” these films to the Pintupi people, and has received permission to publicly show some of it. We got to see Shorty Lungkarta and Uta Uta Tjangala at work on canvases during a visit from the Aboriginal Arts Board in the person of Bob Edwards. Another sequence showed a performance by a group of women, including a younger and vigorous Makinti Napanangka.

Thursday morning’s events included lectures by curators Britta Konau (formerly of the National Museum of Women in the Arts,where the show opened last June) speaking on “Dreaming Their Way: the Making of an Exhibition” and Margo Smith of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum, whose topic was “Diversity and Change in Aboriginal Australian Art.” The morning’s activities concluded with a walking tour of the exhibition, narrated by me. Thursday afternoon’s focus shifted to land rights. Dartmouth Professor of Native American Studies and Government Dale A. Turner spoke on “Sovereignty and Land Rights in Native America: The Key Issues. The program concluded with “Stealing Power: Aboriginal Art, Identity, and Rights of Self-Determination” by Vermont Law School Professor N. Bruce Duthu. Although both men are scholars of Native American peoples and the laws of Canada and the United States in relation to these first peoples, their remarks, with the simple substitution of “Aboriginal Australians” for “Native Americans,” would have made perfect sense to anyone who has followed the recent controversies over revisions to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and the status of permits to enter Aboriginal lands.

Additional lectures follow throughout exhibition’s stay at Dartmouth,including a November 1 lecture by Kennedy, “In the Eye of the Storm: Contemporary Indigenous Art in Australia.” On November 8 a live teleconference will be conducted by Francoise Dussart with artists from Warlukurlangu Arts Centre in Yuendumu, and on December 1 collectors Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan offer a lecture and tour of the exhibition. 

The conference yesterday and today was a great success, with large crowds of Dartmouth faculty and students and local residents turning out to hear the lectures and visit the galleries to see the artworks. The question and answer sessions for every presentation were engaging and extensive, and had to be cut short simply in order to keep the program on schedule. It was a most impressive response from people in the community here who are largely being exposed to indigenous Australian culture for the first time.

I hope to do justice to to this wonderful program in the coming days, but I’m on the road for other reasons until Monday night, so please be patient with me if I don’t make my regular weekend posting schedule. 

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