What a night!

— by Jess Ong

Post-exhibition opening entertainment in the laneway with James Mangohig. Photo by Fiona Morrison

We recently gathered at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) for the launch of Artback NT’s exciting new program for 2017-2019, and the opening of Punuku Tjukurpa, an exhibition of works from the Maruku Arts’ archive, celebrating the stories and Law of Anangu culture.

Photo by Fiona Morrison

Leading up to the event, Stephen Fox – previous director of Maruku Arts (1997-2006) and NCCA (then 24hr Art), spent many careful hours curating the exhibition of punu (wooden carvings and artefacts) with the support of the NCCA and Artback NT install team. During this time, it was an honour to bear witness to Stephen’s curatorial approach. With each decision, a story surfaced: some humorous, others sad. Attention was paid not only to the works present but also those that existed in the broader collection. Tracing his finger across a map showing the Maruku Arts’ punu buying routes, social and environmental connections stemming from the works flourished in our minds. When it all came together, the collection pulsed with meaning and significance.

The evening of our launch and opening, the deep, melodic sounds of Caiti Baker lured guests down Vimy Lane, Parap, where they gathered, unwound and ate. Inside, performances continued. Tony Lee welcomed everyone to Larrakia country with a dynamic Didgeridoo performance. Producer James Mangohig DJ’d a dance-off between comedian Angus Robson and Darwin b*boy Aaron Lim. This was then outshone by an impromptu performance by Artback NT’s very own Chairperson, Denise Salvestro.

Special guests included Billy and Lulu Cooley: directors of Maruku Arts and renowned artists from the collective. The exhibition buzzed with excitement. It was great to see the gallery jam-packed with passionate supporters of the arts who recounted stories from the past, and spoke with optimism about the growing appreciation for the richness and diversity of art from the Northern Territory.

The talent on display on the night reflected the broad scope of creative endeavours supported by Artback NT. From an exhibition of artwork focusing on the impact of the Gurindji Walk-Off to music from the Desert Divas and Sista Sounds, our program for the next two years is brimming with NT artists. If you haven’t already checked it out, I suggest you do!

Punuku Tjukurpa is currently showing at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art until 22 July 2017.

Written by Stephanie Martin, Artback NT’s Communications Officer.