In a remarkable fusion of contemporary art and cultural heritage, Juluwarlu recently collaborated with Berlin-based sound artist Nathan Gray to create an intriguing piece of contemporary art that was presented at the Autostrada Biennale in Kosovo, titled "The Era of the Elder” and now in our podcast mini-series up on Spotify.
“Era of the Elders” focusses on stories of a generation of Yindjibarndi elders, those who paved the way for the land rights struggles of the 2000s. Having passed on their stories, they are powerfully retold by their descendants. This project, which took over a year to develop, is presented as a radio piece, art installation, and a podcast on Spotify. It serves as a means of preserving cultural memory and heritage, primarily intended for the Yindjibarndi and Pilbara communities.
Gray's work was thoughtfully contextualised at the Biennale, alongside other pieces addressing dispossession and cultural memory and a talk from Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Michael Woodley.
This powerful project, seen by over a thousand people, finds its place in a former Kosovoan radio station: a setting rich with historical significance, speaking to the experiences of Kosovars and their struggle for identity and recognition. And, at the same time, paying homage to its' Roebourne radio production.
Gray spent 2022 in Roebourne, Western Australia, collaborating with Ngaarda Media; Juluwarlu Aboriginal Group and Yindjibarndi emerging producer and multidisciplinary artist Wimiya Woodley as part of a Spaced Rural Utopias artist residency.
Gray utilised the concept of "mutual aid" as a research method, inspired by anarchist ecologist Peter Kropotkin and the self-organising Prosfygıka community in Athens. This approach involved offering his sound recording skills to assist existing projects and enhance the work of Ngaarda Media and Juluwarlu Arts Centre, allowing him to learn about communities and grassroots cultural organisations while contributing to their goals.
“Era of the Elders” evolved out of this process and a request from Juluwarlu to create a podcast out of the biographies of the elders that were presented at the Ganilili centre for NAIDOC week in 2022.
Ngaarda Media, based in Ieramagadu (Roebourne), Western Australia, serves as the region's sole First Nations media outlet, providing daily news bulletins focused on First Nations breaking news and representing 31 language groups in the Pilbara region.
Gray's involvement began with covering the annual "Old People's Birthday" event, which commemorates Aboriginal individuals with unrecorded birthdates and sheds light on the history of Ieramagadu/Roebourne, marked by past injustices but also nostalgia for a time when different indigenous groups lived harmoniously and practised their traditions and laws during the reserve era.
“Learning about the history of Roebourne is to learn about injustice piled on top of injustice, yet the reserve era is almost universally looked upon by Ngardangali (Aboriginal People in Yindjibarndi) nostalgically. It was a time when different groups of indigenous people lived peacefully together and were able to practise their tradition and law.” - Nathan Gray.
Together Juluwarlu, Ngaarda Media, Woodley and Gray intertwined their creative energies with the rich history and traditions of Roebourne, the community of Ngurrawanna and Yindjibarndi Ngurra to create the outcome displayed at the Autostrada Biennale in Kosovo.
The residency is part of the Spaced Rural Utopias program. The program, supported by the Government of Western Australia and the RISE Fund, aims to bring art closer to rural and remote communities, fostering a deep connection between artists and their host communities.
Warjiwarlu all and thank you Nathan for collaborating with us to share our story- and stay tuned for details on the podcast!