PATRON & JUDGES
Djon Mundine (formerly John Mundine)
born Grafton 1951
Djon Mundine has played an outstanding role in the arts sector, both nationally and internationally, for over three decades, and shows no signs of slowing down. He is a widely respected and highly sought-after curator, writer, and cultural advisor who has worked with many key public art museums in Australia and overseas, as well as with many regional and community-based organisations. Djon’s reach has been phenomenal, through the exhibitions he has been involved with, including successful internationally touring exhibitions such as Shadow life, 2012-13, co-curated with Natalie King, toured by Asialink and Aratjara: the Art of the First Australians, 1993-4, touring curator; and through the sheer volume of his published writings and public speaking record over several decades.
Djon is arguably the most significant Aboriginal art curator in the country – instrumental in groundbreaking commissions/exhibitions such as: The Aboriginal Memorial, 1987-88, National Gallery of Australia; Tyerabarbowarryaou II: I Shall Never Become a Whiteman, 5th Havana Biennal, 1994, co-curated with Fiona Foley; The Eye of the Storm, 1996, co-curator, National Gallery of Australia / National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Yolngu Science, 2000, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Premier State, and Sunshine State: Smart State, 2007-08, Campbelltown Arts Centre and, more recently, Bungaree, the first Australian, 2012/13, to name just a few. Djon has worked with and curated artists in highly innovative ways, for example, the wall-based painting-interventions of Yolngu artists Richard Birrin Birrin, David Dhalwarrpuy and Micky Dorrng and has himself been an artist for works such as Shrine for the Unknown Koori, 2001 with Fiona Foley, and The Song of Bennelong and Pemulwuy, 2010.
In 2015 his Bungarees Farm performance-projection exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery, won the Museum and Galleries of Australia’s 2015 Exhibition of the Year Award and the Indigenous Exhibition of the Year Award.
In 2017 Djon was awarded the inaugural Indigenous Art Writers Prize by the Power Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Sydney. In the first half of May Djon contributed his In Praise of Shadows and Otherness, essay to Tracey Moffatt’s Venice Biennale catalogue, My Horizons. He also attended the opening. In the second half of May Djon curated the Living in Their Times exhibition at UTS Sydney commemorating the 50th anniversary of the highly successful 1967 Australian Referendum on the status of Aboriginal people. The project included the commissioning of 6 metre tall shadow puppets of Marbuk and Jedda by Robert Campbell Jnr (dec.).
At the end of 2017 Djon curated Four Women (I do belong) Double, the opening exhibition for Lismore Art Gallery’s new building, and Boomalli Ten, the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative’s 30th anniversary exhibition.
It is now over 20 years since Djon was awarded an Order of Australia Medal, for his service to the arts. He had already achieved a lot back then to be given this national recognition, and he has certainly continued to achieve more since, for his own longstanding career as a curator, writer, and artist, towards greater recognition and appreciation of Indigenous Australian art, and in advancing the nation’s cultural life.
Vernon Ah Kee
Vernon Ah Kee’s conceptual text pieces, videos, photographs and drawings form a critique of Australian culture from the perspective of the Aboriginal experience of contemporary life. Ah Kee’s works respond to the history of the romantic and exoticised portraiture of ‘primitives’, and effectively reposition the Aboriginal in Australia from an ‘othered thing’, anchored in museum and scientific records to a contemporary people inhabiting real and current spaces and time.
Ah Kee’s work has been exhibited in a number of significant national and international exhibitions, including Revolutions: Forms that turn the 16th Biennale of Sydney, 2008; Once Removed, Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2009; Ideas of Barack, National Gallery of Victoria, 2011; Tall Man, Gertrude Contemporary, 2011; Everything Falls Apart, Artspace Sydney, 2012; unDisclosed: 2nd National Indigenous Art Triennial, National Gallery of Australia, 2012; My Country: I Still Call Australia Home, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, 2013; and Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, 2013. Ah Kee’s work is held in a number of major collections within Australia and overseas including the Tate Modern, London.
In 2015, Ah Kee was invited by curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev to present a new body of work as part of SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms, the 14th Istanbul Biennial. Other recent exhibitions include Imaginary Accord, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2015; GOMA Q, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2015; When Silence Falls, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2015-16; Encounters, National Museum of Australia, 2015-16; Brutal Truths, Griffith University Art Gallery, 2015-16; Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia, Harvard Art Museums, 2016; a major commission for the exhibition Secrecy and Dispatch at Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2016; as part of the Australian Collection Permanent Hang, Queensland Art Gallery, 2017; and in 2018 Adelaide Bienniale of Australian Art: Divided Worlds, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2018.
Cara Pinchbeck is a member of the Kamilaroi community of northern New South Wales and has a Master of Visual Arts from the University of Sydney. She is currently Senior Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Her recent exhibitions include: Glen Mackie and Daniel O’Shane, 2017; Art from Milingimbi: taking memories back, 2016; Sentient lands, 2016; When silence falls, 2015; The hills beyond Hermannsburg, 2014; Our spirits lie in the water, 2014 and Yirrkala Drawings, 2013. She has also realised solo exhibitions for a number of artists including: Judy Watson, 2018; Reko Rennie: No sleep till Dreamtime, 2014; Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, 2015 and Brenda L Croft, 2013.
Cara was the Curatorial Adviser for both the ABC television series, Art+Soul, produced by Hibiscus Films in 2010 and to the artistic director of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Stephanie Rosenthal in 2016. Cara has written widely on Aboriginal art, with her recent publications including Art from Milingimbi: taking memories back, 2016; When silence falls, 2015 and Yirrkala drawings, 2013. She has also recently contributed to Marking the infinite: contemporary women artists from Aboriginal Australia, (ed. Henry Skerritt), Nevada Museum of Art, 2016; Defying Empire, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2017; Colony, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2018 and Tony Tuckson, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2018.
Sharni Jones is from Kabi Kabi/Waka Waka peoples of south east Queensland on her maternal side. She spent her formative years in the towns of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Brisbane, Queensland and Wollongong, NSW. Sharni lives and works in Sydney.
Sharni has deep knowledge of, and extensive engagement in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultural sector with a specialisation in contemporary visual arts practice. One of Sharni’s strength is her commitment to advocacy, social action and Aboriginal-led engagement with diverse stakeholders. This dedication has developed her broad capabilities in project management, strategic policy development and implementation, curatorial and cultural collections management.
Currently, Sharni is the Manager, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collection at Australian Museum in Sydney. Sharni and the team provide custodial care for over 20,000 cultural objects from diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The cultural collection is also rich with over one million Aboriginal archaeological heritage materials providing a rich repository for community cultural research. The collections are closely interwoven with Communities’ ongoing connection to living culture. The team works within a strengths-based well-being framework to facilitate appropriate Aboriginal-led engagements to activate cultural memory through shared experience.
Her tertiary qualifications include a Master of Arts Administration, UNSW College of Fine Arts; Bachelor of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Northern Sydney Institute. Sharni was appointed to the Regional Arts NSW Board of Directors in 2017 and is a former board member of Information and Cultural Exchange.
Sharni is a passionate and life-long advocate for First Nations dedicated arts leadership, fostering and championing Aboriginal arts and cultural practice through excellence, leadership and mentoring. A legacy for future generations.