Balgo aboriginal art makes its mark here

By Yashasvi Kannangara

The Australian High Commission this week presented "Balgo: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills", an exhibition of Indigenous Aboriginal art from the district of Balgo in Colombo’s JDA Gallery on Horton Place.

Balgo art depicts the tales and traditions surrounding the indigenous Balgo Hills community. The central theme of the work is the land, or country of the people of Balgo. Balgo hills in Western Australia, is a part of both the Tanami Desert and the Great Sandy Desert. The exhibition which opened on February 16 and will run through to March 2 displays a contemporary Aboriginal art collection from 18 famed artists of Balgo.

These acrylic paintings have individual texture and depth. The canvas is completely taken up by the imagery and the use of white space is scarce if not evident at all. The choice of colour is unconventionally vibrant and bold in comparison to the traditional Aboriginal art which borrowed from deep earth tones.

The paintings have a linear pattern with a continuous dot technique with geometric shapes and designs. Repetitive forms give meaning to the stories told by the artists. The images themselves projected energy and force that added to the general effect.

The exhibition was declared open by the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Art, T.B. Ekanayaka. In her opening address Australian High Commissioner, Kathy Klugman drew attention to the role of the Aboriginal community in Australia and the wrongs and injustice they endured in the past. Celebrating their art was a part of the “healing of a nation”, she said.

The High Commissioner gave a moving speech quoting an extract from the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, delivered in the Australian Parliament three years ago. The Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs W. Rubasinghe in his address said Sri Lanka had much to learn from the concept behind the celebration of contemporary Aboriginal Art.

The Third Secretary to the Australian High Commission Steven Foster who works on Australian cultural projects in Sri Lanka said that there was a “huge response” for the Balgo exhibition. The exhibition is an opportunity for young artists to explore an exotic art form that is unique to Western Australia. The event was organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs together with the Trade of Australia and the Commonwealth art repository, Artbank.

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