GALLERY: Exhibition reflecting on Aboriginal identity opens in Blacktown

As time conspires against them, two of western Sydney’s most renowned Indigenous artists have created an exhibition they hope will intrigue and provoke people long after they are gone.

Danny Eastwood, or Yatama Nigimali by his people’s dialect, and Jake Soewardie, Thaya Giwirr Jake Soewardie by his traditional tongue, said this exhibition was particularly meaningful to them.

‘‘At our age, we’ve got a lot of ailments,’’ Soewardie said.

‘‘And I’ve always wanted to do an exhibition with Danny, so this is like a dream come true.’’ 

Neither man is wasting the opportunity.

Soewardie said the exhibition had provided a chance to reflect on his life as an Aboriginal man in Australia.

He was inspired, he said, by the French Revolution journalist Jean-Paul Marat, who ‘‘stirred up the revolution and turned it pretty ugly’’.

‘‘I got mixed up with the Kangaroo Court in Australia, and experienced things when I was younger,’’ he said.

‘‘I got thrown out of towns because in them days people didn’t like strange black fellas hanging around.

‘‘They didn’t like the local black fellas hanging around.’’

Those memories have transpired in Soewardie’s latest paintings.

For Eastwood the politics of being Aboriginal were more vivid as he worked on this exhibition then ever before, he said.

‘‘People who have seen my work would know I rarely do abstract,’’ he said.

‘‘But I was painting many different things — and I’m a positive person, I try to be positive —but I was remembering things that have happened to Aboriginal people in the past.

‘‘Land takings, smallpox and other atrocities.

‘‘Atrocities like the massacre at Hospital Creek — where for the loss of one stockmen, 400 Aboriginals were massacred — and some other atrocities when I was painting.

‘‘But I had to put some of that aside.

‘‘When you have to paint that stuff, you have to put yourself in the frame of mind. 

‘‘I was remembering my youth. I got depressed and had to get back to reality because you have to enjoy your art as well, that’s what makes us paint.’’ 

Both Eastwood and Soewardie hope to exhibit more work reflecting on their ideas of being Aboriginal in the future.

Their latest art, they say, combines the Indigenous dot-style painting and western styles.

The method is rare, Soewardie said, and as symbolic as the images.

‘‘We’re not exploiting our race,’’ he said, ‘‘as much as we are pointing out what could be changed.’’

‘‘It’s not exploiting, it’s taking that art to the mainstream.

‘‘I’m an example that it can be done; I survived and have done well in the mainstream.’’

The exhibition by Eastwood and Soewardie, The Good, the Bad and the In between, opens tonight at Blacktown Art Centre and runs until April 6.

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