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Listening to the land

The Australian continent is vast and diverse – from red deserts to rainforest and beaches to bush. It has a long human history stretching from its First Peoples through to contemporary times.

The film Ochre and Sky explores the relationship between people and the land in Australia. As we face global environmental challenges, Ochre and Sky invites us to find hope for the future by listening closely to the land and drawing on ancestral wisdom.

The Ochre and Sky film was created by filmmakers Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak of ZAKPAGE. The installation accompanying it is the work of Chinese–Australian artist Zhou Xiaoping.

The exhibition is on show at:

  • Zhenjiang Museum, Zhenjiang, 1 January to 24 February 2024
  • Guangming Culture and Art Center, Shenzhen, 15 March to 12 May 2024
Three people sit with their backs to the camera, facing a large screen which shows a sweeping landscape, with a tree at the centre of the screen.
Ochre and Sky film
Portrait photo of Alison Page.
Alison Page

We are all part of Country.

We are all connected to the sky, the water and the land.

The animals, the plants and the stories of place have been sung and written through time.

From the moment we are born, the echoes of past generations and the energy of elemental forces start to fill our beings with the essence of Country.

In the Australian Aboriginal world, that connection is maintained through family and ancestral memory, as it is for most people. But it is also invigorated through ceremony and ritual, and through loving Country as another member of our shared ancient family. Because when we care for Country – the water, the land and the animals – Country will care for us.

Portrait photo of Zhou Xiaoping.
Zhou Xiaoping

Traditionally, both First Nations and Chinese people have upheld strong family values. It is just one of many similarities between ancient First Nations and Chinese cultures, in addition to the use of Chinese herbal and First Nations bush medicines.

In this installation artwork artist Zhou Xiaoping uses rice as a medium to portray the significance of land, nature, life and love for family. Aboriginal art and culture are expressed through this favourite and familiar Chinese staple. Rice is also a favourite food of Aboriginal peoples.

Furthermore, the ochre strips on the rice symbolise land, and the relationship between life and the earth. For First Nations peoples, 'our land is our life’. Beyond these symbols, the work also creates a dialogue about the human soul and culture.

The use of rice as an artistic medium also conveys a cross-cultural message about the shared meanings that can be found in the accompaniments to everyday life.

Acknowledgements

A touring program from the National Museum of Australia

Supported by the National Foundation for Australia–China Relations

Logos: National Museum of Australia, National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, Zakpage Storytelling, ACACM XIAOPING STUDIO.

Ochre and Sky was previously on show at:

  • China World Art Museum, Beijing, China, 14 November to 17 December 2023
  • Tianjin Art Museum, Tianjin, China, 18 July to 27 August 2023

Banner image: screenshot from Ochre and Sky, digital film, 2022, Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak, Zakpage Pty Ltd.

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