Place and displacement in Aboriginal Australia: A Warlpiri visual cultural enquiry
At a time of social turbulence and hyper-mobility, this project examines Aboriginal people’s transforming relationships to place. From ancestral places, to the nation and beyond, it analyses how Warlpiri people of central Australia have pictured themselves in a changing world.
The first stage of research explored eight decades of transformations in Warlpiri life through the prism of drawing. It resulted in a book long enquiry, Remembering the Future: Warlpiri Life through the prism of Drawing (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2014), and an associated exhibition curated for the National Museum of Australia. Combining methods and analysis drawn from anthropology and interdisciplinary visual studies this project shed light on the role of image making in in turbulent contexts of forced migration and in structuring relationships between Aboriginal people and others. The outputs of this research supported the successful nomination of the Warlpiri Drawings to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
The second phase of the research, also conducted with Warlpiri people, examines displacement in the present. Working intensively with people living in Adelaide 2,000 kilometres from their hometown and ancestral lands, the research explores a particular situation of uprootedness, exile and associated instabilities at a time when these have become generalised dimensions of human experience. The project asks, when people are forced to move away from the places from where they draw primary ontological security and must navigate structural impediments, shifting public attitudes, and their own abiding social commitments, what resources do they drawn upon to secure a livable life? This research is generating fresh perspectives on transforming cultural associations in Australia as well as protracted national debates about the future of remote Aboriginal communities.
This Future Fellowship project is funded by the Australian Research Council