Under an Indigenous curatorial premise of ‘interconnectedness’, my sculptural work Continuing Connections 2018, will feature as part of a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists invited to participate in the 2018 annual Brisbane festival of ‘Maiwar’.

The Maiwar festival (a local Aboriginal word for the Brisbane River) acknowledges and celebrates Brisbane’s main waterway and honours stories about change, adaptability and endurance – referencing both Indigenous and non-Indigenous engagements with the watercourse. Maiwar provides a platform for the telling of Indigenous people’s stories outside of the institution and the gallery where they are brought into visibility and into the public domain. On building walls, laneways, bridges and random Brisbane city spaces, artists bring a wide range of artistic styles and media to represent the diverse range of experiences from contemporary black Australia. Often embedded with socio-political content and layered historical references and narrative, these works validate and strengthen our cultural continuity, community networks and exchange, and our enduring sense of pride in our identity.

At a time when racist commentary is still very present in the media and popular culture and our Indigenous identity is under constant attack it is imperative that we continue to make artistic and cultural representations that provide a counter-narrative to fictional Western discourses and justifications of colonisation. Increased Indigenous curatorship will ensure Indigenous stories and lived experiences are foregrounded and acknowledged, and provide appropriate environments where our ideas are centred and not historically embedded in Western canons. Skilful curatorial direction and tactical approaches can provide a challenge for Western institutions to take on Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching and being, and strategically enact positive social change in the wider society.

As a palawa woman from tebrakunna (North-East Tasmania) living in Brisbane and a contributor to Maiwar 2018, I bring my Indigenous worldview to the premise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interconnectedness. I have reflected and contemplated on ageless stories and more contemporary urban histories. My response to these contemplations has been to develop three-dimensional, sculptural works entitled Continuing Connections 2018, that connect our mutual and diverse cultural water stories. Using materials that invite curiosity such as rusting steel wool along with fresh and decaying Tasmanian bull kelp, I have developed work that celebrates and emphasises our cultural heritage, identity and resilience as well as metaphorically referencing colonial history, encounter and memory. These ephemeral works have been installed in two glass, boxed vitrines, centrally located within Brisbane city streets.

The cessation of the three month long Maiwar festival will see my sculptural works removed from the contained and confining spaces of the enclosed, public vitrines. This departure point will provide an opportunity to expand upon and continue socio-political dialogues around my changing and transforming work as I move forms into the Metro Arts Gallery space where I will be Speaking beyond the vitrine.

Mandy Quadrio

April 2018