Tina Baum is the Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
On my mother’s side, I am from the Gulumirrgin/Larrakia people of Garramilla/Darwin, where I grew up, and the Wardaman people of the Northern Territory. On my father’s side, I am from the Karajarri people of northern Western Australia. I proudly have Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Scottish and German heritage too.
I am also the Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. I have a driving passion to indigenise museological practices to improve recognition and respect for First Nations collections. I have curated more than 170 of Australia’s First Nations artists for Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia, which will be on display at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from July 29. This display will be the largest presentation of Australia’s First Nations people to ever exhibit in Aotearoa.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are Australia’s first artists. This is recognised at the National Gallery of Australia, which has always featured First Peoples art since it opened in 1982. In 1987, the gallery commissioned the most significant work by Aboriginal artists (in its collection) from the remote community of Ramingining in the Northern Territory, The Aboriginal Memorial, 1987-88. At the time this was the first public memorial in Australia to recognise all Aboriginal people who died fighting in the frontier wars in Australia.
Later, in 2010, the gallery opened 11 new dedicated and purpose-built gallery spaces for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections along with a new entrance - a strategic decision so visitors would experience it first.
The gallery has more than 8000 First Nation permanent works of art and many visitors come to learn and experience the diversity and excellence. Works by Western Arrarnta artist Albert Namatjira and Anmatyerre artist Emily Kam Kngwarray - two of the most popular and important Aboriginal artists - are always on display. International visitors who have never experienced Australian indigenous art before are typically amazed at its beauty and importance of the stories that are told.
What I value the most about my role is my ongoing engaging with and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and communities. I am helping to elevate their art, culture and histories. Providing a platform for artists to tell their stories in their own way and showcasing art in interesting and innovative ways is immensely rewarding. As an Aboriginal curator, I am proud of the role I have also played to make meaningful national policy and sector changes in museums on how First Nations art and culture is recognised, respected and elevated.
In recent years, we’ve seen the overseas demand for putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists on a global stage increase rapidly. People want more ways to learn about the world’s oldest living continuous culture. It is important to provide culturally safe spaces and avenues for First Nations Communities to enter and engage in museums and gallery spaces.
As the largest custodian of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the world, the gallery is passionate about finding ways to share the collection with as many people as possible. This includes touring exhibitions such as Ever Present in Aotearoa and beyond.
What I hope Kiwis gain from seeing and engaging with the art, culture and histories at the Ever Present exhibition is to appreciate, be inspired by, learn about, be in awe of, and be excited by the incredibly important and beautiful art on display; to recognise and celebrate the First Peoples of Australia.
Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia is a National Gallery of Australia Touring Exhibition will be on display at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki from July 29-October 29.
Places to experience First Peoples of Australia’s art and culture
Yabun Festival, Sydney
Held annually on Australia Day (January 26) Yabun is the largest single-day Aboriginal festival in Australia. As well as artistic line-ups, there are cultural programmes, presenting panels and speeches by some of the Aboriginal community’s most recognised individuals.
Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF)
An entire jamborree of dance, music, fashion parades, performance and workshops as well as artists’ talks and of course, a huge and diverse array of First Nations artwork. From July 13-16 at the Cairns Convention Centre.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair
This three-day event has been going strong since 2007. As the only art fair in Australia where Aboriginal-owned art centres come together to sell their products directly to the public, the next convention takes place August 11-13.
Running from November 14-24 at various significant sites around Sydney Harbour, Corroboree brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, writers, dancers and musicians to share their creativity and histories via performance, guided walks, public talks, workshops and film screenings.
For more Aboriginal events and festivals, see creativespirits.info