Richness, beauty and strength. These words capture the spirit of Ngulla Wellamunagaa: Trees that have survived and revived. The temporary exhibition curated by AIATSIS from their extensive collection opened at the NMA in December 2019. It is on display in the Focus Gallery until March 2020.
The exhibition showcased sixteen objects and their stories. The stories spoke of continuing, reviving and exploring culture, in the voices of the artists themselves. In several cases, the makers or their families had been reconnected to their lost work after decades through the process of the exhibition development.
We responded strongly to the richness and breadth of the content, seeing the works as parts of a living cultural ecosystem. We designed around the objects themselves, keeping the overall look fairly simple. The magazine-style graphics acted as a unifying element across the exhibition, in colours drawn from the displayed works. We could then interpret each object individually, designing a vignette that spoke to that particular story. Boomerangs made by four generations of one family spin up and across the wall, seemingly captured in flight through space and time. A woven echidna nestles snugly in a burrow, while a cast aluminium manta ray glides smoothly in the blue. A collection of vintage posters fills a four-metre high wall, interspersed with works from a young contemporary artist and quotes from today’s youth.
The warm, lush colour tones helped to unify the twisty gallery space, and created an enveloping, welcoming atmosphere for the exhibition. Ngulla Wellamunagaa was a rich and varied exhibition, celebrating the story of each artist and their work in a unique, compelling way.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
National Museum of Australia, Canberra