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Body Language: Cultural identity expressed through the language of body art
29 Aug - 8 Nov 2020
Gallery 1

As a direct response to the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, the National Gallery of Australia is developing a major children’s’ travelling exhibition, Body Language, to be released in early 2020.

For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people identity is a source of strength and reliance, there are many ways in which we identify, what we believe in, how we look, how we feel and how we see ourselves in society. Language is fundamental to the expression of culture identity, before the arrival of the British colonisers in 1788 there were over 250 Indigenous Australian languages, including 800 dialects, but today those numbers have dramatically declined to under 50 spoken languages.

We have many forms of language including the art of visual language this comes in many forms. Aboriginal people traditionally painted on rock surfaces, scar trees, barks, on the body and in the sand to tell the stories of ancestors and creation. Symbols were drawn in the sand as maps showing the young initiates where to find waterholes, food and to teach about hunting and how to recognise animal tracks. Aboriginal symbols are an essential part of a long artistic tradition in Australian Aboriginal Art and remain the visual form to retain and record significant information.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people did not have a written language but shared their oral stories thought-out generations, Body Language will explore the iconography of language as expressed through symbols and patterns and will include works that explore these themes. Exhibition material including text and labels will be produced in bi-lingual form as a result of direct consultation with the Indigenous Nations and Language Groups represented in the exhibition.

Featuring Artists: Brook Andrew, Lyndsay Bird Mpetyane, Mavis Bolton, Jeremiah Bonson, Robert Campbell Jnr, Robert Ambrose Cole, Rose Graham, Josephine Grant Nappangarti, Philip Gudthaykudthay, Queenie Kemarr, Mary Kemarre, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Arone Raymond Meeks, Butcher Joe Nangan, Arthur Koo'ekka Pambegan Jnr, Wally Petyarr, Prince of Wales, Angelina Pwerle, Reko Rennie, Phyllis Ricky, Elizabeth Riley, Jean Riley, Damien Shen, Joan Nancy Stokes, Jimmy Thaiday, Warwick Thornton, Aubrey Tigan, Alick Tipoti, Evonne Tompson, David Wallace, Judy Watson, Nawurapu Wunungmurra

  

Body Language is a National Gallery of Australia Exhibition. The project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the National Collections Touring and Outreach Program.

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