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In Unsettled: Stories within, five leading Indigenous Australian artists responded to the National Museum of Australia’s major exhibition, Encounters, which revealed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material collected during the early years of European colonisation. Most of this material is part of the British Museum’s permanent collection.

Unsettled: Stories within.
Entrance to the Unsettled exhibition at the National Museum of Australia

The artists – Julie Gough, Jonathan Jones, Judy Watson, Elma Kris and Mr Wanambi – produced unique works of art that provide a creative examination of objects on display in Encounters. Through their artworks, they interrogated the circumstances in which these objects were originally collected.

Early European collectors did not consider cultural knowledge as important or as collectible as the objects they removed from Country, with or without consent. So, tangible was separated from intangible as objects were pulled from their cultural webs of meaning, representation and spirit.

The Indigenous artists in this exhibition interpreted the material and re-established a link between the objects and their cultural context, enabling them to be truly embraced, honoured and understood.

Unsettled was a visual repatriation that inspirits, reanimates and encourages new contemplations of these precious objects.

Kelli Cole, consultant curator


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