// How has the exploitation of Aboriginal art affected the indigenous people? //

Featured image: Gloria Petyarre | Bush Leaves | estimated; 1990 | Acrylic on linen | 125 x 75 cm | Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery. (2017). Gloria Petyarre Paintings & Artist Profile – Japingka Gallery. [online] Available at: https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/collections/gloria-petyarre-paintings/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
In the dictionary, the definition of exploitation reads that it is the act, or situation of treating somebody unfairly, in order to profit and take advantage of their work. A culture that is harmed by this is the Indigenous people of Australia and their Aboriginal artworks. The indigenous people have been taken advantage of, and the sale of fake Indigenous art, while not illegal, is thought to be immoral. Around 85% of what is sold in souvenir shops is fake and imported, and millions of dollars have been made through the selling of fake aboriginal paintings, but why are people trying to make a profit from the oldest continuous living culture in world history?

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Image above: Kaapa Tjampitjinpa | Yala at Yantjupu (Wild Potato Dreaming) | 1973 | synthetic polymer powder paint on artist board | 55 x 37 cm | Moss Green, (2017). [online] Available at: https://www.mossgreen.com.au/m/lot-details/index/catalog/195/lot/80953/KAAPA-TJAMPITJINPA-1920-1989-Yala-at-Yantjupu-Wild-Potato-Dreaming-1973 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
The Australian Aborigines arrived in Australia between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. Evidence of ancient Aboriginal art has been dated back to at least 20,000 years, where still visible rock out was found. Ochres, a mix of natural earth were used to paint on the rocks. The colour of these ranged from pale yellow to an orange, red-ish – yellow. There is no written language for the Australian Aboriginal people, so they use symbols as an alternative method of writing, and showing important cultural stories. Dots were used to hide secret information and obscure the secret symbols underneath, as they were concerned white men would be able to see and understand their sacred knowledge. The artworks they produced were based on story-telling, and this created a starting point for contemporary Aboriginal art. It was not until 1930 where the first Aboriginal paintings were created, these were not created from dot art or ochres, but with watercolour.
The Aboriginal people of Australia have never been treated fairly. In January 1901, The Commonwealth Constitution stated that in recognising the numbers of people, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted. This meant that the Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote, and they excluded from things like pensions and maternity allowance. The government also introduced the ‘white Australian policy’. This was to try and ban all non-Caucasian people from entering the country.

Albert 3

Image above: Albert (Elea) Namatjira’s | Mount Sonder | c1945 | watercolour on paper | 25 x 36 cm | Harmon, S. (2017). Albert Namatjira: vivid watercolours of the Australian outback – in pictures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jul/28/albert-namatjira-vivid-watercolours-of-australias-outback-in-pictures [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

Albert 2

Image above: Albert (Elea) Namatjira’s | Mount Giles, Macdonnell Ranges, central Australia| c1948 | watercolour on paper | 26 x 36 cm | Harmon, S. (2017). Albert Namatjira: vivid watercolours of the Australian outback – in pictures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jul/28/albert-namatjira-vivid-watercolours-of-australias-outback-in-pictures [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
In 1938, the Aboriginal Progressive Association declares a Day of Mourning, 150 years after European occupation. In Sydney, a conference was held, and this created many Aboriginal protests, against inequality and injustice. The following December, Albert Namatjira, a Central Australian Aboriginal painter held his first exhibition in Melbourne. Over the course three days, he sold all 41 artworks.

Albert 1

Image above: Albert (Elea) Namatjira’s | Ghost gum, Glen Helen | c1950 | watercolour on paper | 36 x 26 cm | Harmon, S. (2017). Albert Namatjira: vivid watercolours of the Australian outback – in pictures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jul/28/albert-namatjira-vivid-watercolours-of-australias-outback-in-pictures [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Albert Namatjira artworks were colourful and his paintings often show colour-contrasted landscapes, with purple rolling mountains in the background and bright white trees in the foreground, such as Ghost Gum, Glen Helen, pictured above. In some, they are portraits of living entities and the history of their survival is evident in the way they are portrayed.

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The tree in this painting is the forefront of leading our eye into the painted image of the landscape. It also creates the illusion of space, distancing the rolling hills far away from the tree. It’s position in the foreground adding depth to the painting. There is texture from the individual brushstrokes created from the watercolour paints. The tones of green layered on top of one another. The painting seems very still, as the brushstrokes do not create any movement. The big empty blue sky also creates space, against the vibrant white tree. There isn’t much dark shading, but it still creates the illusion of it being three-dimensional. The earthy tones at the bottom of the painting create a slight contrast against the tree and this draws attention to the darker, more detailed, fine lines in the background of the painting.
For me, I really like this painting, and it is something that I would love to hang up on a wall in my home. Because of the empty blue sky, it creates a calm and relaxing feeling. It creates the sense of stillness which I find very peaceful. I feel as though it gives off dreamy ambiences, because of the light colours and tones he has used in the painting. Together they give off unity and it feels like the image does belong together. It has that balance from the tree growing straight up through the middle, and out the top on both sides, which adds to that sense of calm. I really like that it has minimal contrast, this adds to the content feeling it gives me.
Albert Namatjira was granted Australian citizenship in 1957, he was the first Aboriginal to receive this. Which meant that he was then exempt from the laws that denied Indigenous Australians the right to vote, own property and drink alcohol. In 1959, aged 57 he died of a heart attack, at this point he had painted around 2000 paintings. Soon after his death, some critics denounced his unique style of painting. But in 1968 he was the first named Aboriginal person honoured on an Australian stamp and 100 years after he was born, he has become a national symbol, after his art was virtually ignored by the mainstream Australian art world.
In 1960, the Aboriginal people were given the right to enrol and vote, this was amended, extending the right to vote to Aboriginal people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. And 15 years later the White Australian policy ended.

Geoffrey Bardon 2

Image above: Kaapa Tjampitjinpa | Budgerigar Dreaming | 1972 | synthetic polymer powder paint on composition board | 91.5 x 65 cm | Deutscherandhackett.com. (2017). BUDGERIGAR DREAMING (VERSION 6), 1972 | Deutscher and Hackett. [online] Available at: http://www.deutscherandhackett.com/auction/lot/budgerigar-dreaming-version-6-1972 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

In 1971 the desert community of Papunya is said to have produced contemporary Aboriginal when modern materials were used by senior desert men, who painted their cultural stories on board and canvas. Locals began adapting their styles to take advantage of these new, Western mediums. This was encouraged by Geoffrey Bardon, a school teacher working with Aboriginal children. The Papunya community influenced other communities to join, and there began the Aboriginal art movement. It was then the Indigenous artists began to receive widespread recognition. The result was an art movement throughout the Western Desert, where individuals and communities put their stories on a canvas. It has been identified as the most exciting contemporary art form of the 20th century.

daniel w

Image above: Daniel Walbidi | Tali and Warla | 2015 | synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen | 205 x 171 cm | http://www.chop.com.au, L. (2017). CooeeArt Since 1981. [online] Cooeeart.com.au. Available at: http://www.cooeeart.com.au/gallery/artworks/artist/daniel_walbidi/cooee_13964/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
In 1999, aged 16, Daniel Walbidi, went into Broome’s Short Street Gallery and asked the owner for painting supplies. He was from Yulparjia, and it was here he inspired is elders who were in their 70’s to paint their stories. This sparked an art movement, and he went on to be one of Australia’s finest contemporary artists.

daniel

Image above: Daniel Walbidi | All the Jila (waterholes) | 2007 | acrylic on canvas | 168 x 112 cm | Desertriversea.com.au. (2017). All the Jila | Desert River Sea. [online] Available at: http://desertriversea.com.au/art/293 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
The blue in the painting above is the water on the land after the rain has been, and it shows how it sits on the surface and creates great pools. The yellow within the painting is after the rain when it dries and creates cracks in the surface. The rest is all the jila – waterholes of his country. Daniel Walbidi’s country is the Great Sandy Desert around the Percival lakes in Western Australia. This country is Daniel Walbidi’s traditional land, and where his father was born. Daniel Walbidi travels there regularly to hunt and understand his culture and the stories of his ancestors.
The shapes within the painting create bright and bold block patterns. The contrasting tones of colour using acrylic on the canvas, show the coldness of the blue, against the hot and warm of the red earthy tones. The brushstrokes of the outlines of colour are even and show unity. The blue rain pool is what you are immediately drawn into, before noticing the circular shapes around the blue pool. They use a little of the same blue tones, but inside black holes have been created, this referring to the waterholes within the painting. Symmetry is created by splitting the two sides of colour from one another, but it doesn’t seem balanced because of the opposite colours of tones used.
Personally, this painting isn’t something I really like, or something I’m drawn too. I’m not a huge fan of the blue – cool tones, with the orange – warm tones. Together they are uneasy colours and the mix of them in the painting can give off a bit of a headache feeling. For me, it creates a nervous atmosphere, and it affects my mood, making me feel irritated. It isn’t neat, and is a very uneven piece, in the sense of the different sizes of the painted lines and shapes. I much prefer a piece of artwork that is neat and well proportioned, something that creates a sense of calm, for me this painting doesn’t do that.

symbols

Image above: Symbols used in Papunya Central Desert art – Based on information from “Papunya Tula” by Geoffrey Bardon | Aboriginalartonline.com. (2017). Aboriginal Art Online – Contemporary Art and Traditional Symbols. [online] Available at: http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/culture/symbols.php [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Aboriginal artists inherit rights to paint cultural stories, which are passed down through generations. An Aboriginal artist cannot paint a story that does not belong to their family. An artist must have permission to paint a story containing secret or sacred information. ‘Dreamtime’ is the period in which the Indigenous people believe the world was created, and a huge proportion of contemporary Aboriginal art is based on the important ancient stories and symbols around ‘Dreamtime’.
In 2012 Western Australia renamed the Foundation Day, to Western Australia Day, and for the first time in legislation, they recognised Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of Western Australia. In the following year, the WA government replaced the word ‘Indigenous’ with the word ‘Aboriginal’ in their official documents.

fashion

Image above: Deutsch, A. (2017). Australia’s First Indigenous Fashion Week Launches, Aboriginal Model Samantha Harris Gives Us the Deets. [online] Fashionista. Available at: https://fashionista.com/2012/09/australias-first-indeginous-fashion-week-launches-aboriginal-model-samantha-harris-gives-us-the-deets [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
The Australian Indigenous Fashion Week (AIFW) was held in Sydney in 2014, it showcased Aboriginal fashion, textiles and accessories from across Australia. It is a place for Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander designers to showcase their high quality, designs. The organisation wants to improve the position of Aboriginal people, by creating trusting relationships with local and international buyers. It is also a chance to celebrate Indigenous designers and increase their profile. AIFW organisers are an indigenous owned and managed events company. Samantha Harris was the face of the 2014 event. As she is half Aboriginal, this also raised the profile for other Aboriginal models. This change in the fashion world, supporting Aboriginal designers is an influential step forward.
The same year the fashion week was held, the Australian government axed more than $534 million dollars from Aboriginal programmes, this cut more than $160 million dollars from Aboriginal health programmes. And without any consultation, they announced that they would stop providing funding to remote homeland communities. The next year thousands, of people, protested the closure, and in 2016 the government introduced programmes and initiatives, to close the gap within Indigenous affairs. For the first time, in 2018, year 11 high school students in Australia, can learn about pre – 1788 Aboriginal history, in the same way, they are taught ancient Greek and Roman history. Students will be able to investigate artefacts and sites in their local area.
Although a lot of things have changed throughout history, making the life of an Aboriginal person seem very well improved, the Indigenous Communal Moral Rights (ICMR) is not legally protected in Australia. This would enable Indigenous communities to prevent unauthorised treatment of their artworks that symbolise community images and knowledge. The government released a draft ICMR Bill in 2003, it was to extend the moral rights protection of an individual artists’ expression. In the Australian law, there are three types of moral rights, individual artists have the right to be attributed for their work. They also have the right to not be falsely attributed and the third right is the right of integrity, this is when the artist can object to derogatory treatment of their work that denounces their honour or reputation. The idea behind the bill was to extend the moral rights laws, to cover and protect the interest of the communities, and not just the individual artists. The ICMR Bill did not protect elements of Indigenous culture and intellectual property and would not have provided protection over some rock paintings or unrecorded spoken histories.

ethical

Image above: Indigenous Instyle. (2017). Ethical Buying of Aboriginal Art – Indigenous Instyle. [online] Available at: http://www.indigenousinstyle.com.au/ethical-buying-of-aboriginal-art/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Ethics in buying Aboriginal artwork is very important. Previously in the remote parts of Australia, you would get conmen and fly-by-night gallerists. They would dive in and pay with alcohol and food, or sometimes they paid a small amount of money. But the conmen would return with a collection of artworks, that would later sell on for thousands of dollars. In 2007 an Indigenous art code was established. Some artists may not speak any English, so it is important that they understand the terms of the sale. Thier cultural practices must be respected and they must not be paid with drugs or alcohol. Philp Watkins, who is head of Desart, an association of central Australian Aboriginal art and craft centres said “There are sweatshops still happening. A dealer will fly into Alice Springs and will get a hotel room. Artists will be put in there and the dealer will provide the canvas and the paints, and they give the artists a short period time to paint 30 or 40 canvases.” [Delaney, B. 2017]. This is considered as exploitation; a whole culture and heritage are represented through these pieces of art. Ethical buying principles are necessary in the purchasing of Aboriginal art. It is the discipline of what is morally good, bad, right and wrong. Buying Aboriginal art ethically is about setting standards, not just some object that can be bought off as cheap art.
The Fake Art Harms Culture campaign launched in 2016 and estimates that up to 80% of stores that sell seemingly Indigenous products, are in fact, selling fakes. These are made and imported from Asian and Pacific countries, like Indonesia and China. The Fake Art Harms Culture campaign asks for the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission to act against the businesses that are involved in the producing, importing and the selling fake goods in Australia. They also ask for consumers to be informed of their ability to act on the issue too. And that the government needs to implement stronger and more effective laws to stop the marketing and sale of fake Aboriginal works. It is diminishing the art and it’s meaning within their culture, it is a way of them telling their stories and passing on knowledge. It is wrong to paint someone else’s story, it the abuse of Indigenous rights and theft of intellectual property. It has an impact on their culture and take the economic opportunity away. For a lot of people, like those living in the homelands, they are remote and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for employment. Federal independent MP Bob Katter, has called for the sale of fake Aboriginal products to be made illegal, however they are labelled. One-way artists have been fighting back is using their fingerprint, they are all different, they can use this within their works. But if there is one thing that the first Australians should be allowed to keep and own, it’s their own culture.

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Image above: WILLIE WESTON. (2017). ENTER. [online] Available at: https://www.willieweston.com/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Aboriginal art has developed throughout the years, including the development of fashion and textiles, and having the inaugural Australian Indigenous Fashion Week, to showcase these. In fact, the Aboriginal methods are now shown in contemporary designs and interiors. Willie Weston is an interior company, in which you can purchase cushions and other soft furnishings designed by Indigenous artists. They are a company that introduces Indigenous art into contemporary design. Willie Weston is a social enterprise that works with these artists to create curated collections of fabrics and wallpapers, for residential and commercial design settings. For every meter of fabric produced, the artists and art centre receive funds for the use of their work. They provide an ongoing income stream to the artists outside their main art practice. They support the continuance of art production and contribute to communities across remote parts of Australia. Their ambition is to celebrate the diverse artistic output of Indigenous artists, to challenge preconceptions about Indigenous design, and to support its integration into their built environments. Limited runs both respect the integrity of the artists’ work and preserve the exclusivity of Willie Weston’s prints.

leaves

Image above: Gloria Petyarre | Leaves in the Wind | 2003 | Acrylic on linen | 90 x 90 cm | Wind, G. (2017). Utopia : Gloria TAMERRE PETYARRE – Leaves in the Wind. [online] Aboriginaldream.com. Available at: http://www.aboriginaldream.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&view=productdetails&virtuemart_product_id=162&virtuemart_category_id=9 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Gloria Petyarre, born in the Utopia around 1945, she is one of Australia’s most famous Aboriginal artists. She first gained recognition with the women artists working with batik. This painting portrays leaves of a special bush medicine plant which is used for medicinal purposes. Women collect the leaves from different places around Utopia before they are boiled to extract resin. The paste created can be stored for long periods once kangaroo fat has been added. The women use the paste as medicine for a number of different things, such as bites, burns and rashes. Women perform a Bush Medicine Ceremony at different times of the year and in preparation for the ceremony, the women paint their bodies with the special markings used for that ceremony. To represent the different growth of the leaves throughout the year, she uses a range of different brush strokes in her paintings.

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There is so much texture shown in this painting, from the heavy, short brush strokes that are layered upon one another. The painting looks exactly like what it is named; leaves in the wind, this also adds to the patterns shown in the painting. You can really see the movement with each brush stroke. The colours within the painting are contrasting, and they are true colours. It is vibrant with white, and it is an abstract way of showing the Australian bush. The cool blue tones throughout create space. The acrylic on the linen is textured, and you are drawn in by the lines that from the bottom – middle, up and out to the edges, making the lines go in multiple directions. It creates the illusion of it being three-dimensional, even though it is two-dimensional. It is a symmetrical painting, which creates the balance.
This painting is something I would show in my home. The piece creates a calm atmosphere. The lightness of it draws in my eye, and the dark contrasting colours underneath are even more prominent. It gives off relaxing vibes, and this, to me is because of the movement you see within the painting, it’s almost as if you are blowing in the wind just like the leaves in the painting supposedly are, it is peaceful. The blue colours and tones throughout the piece really add to the feeling of calm too, and the balance within the painting connects with the balance I have in my own life now.
After researching the Aboriginal timeline and viewing the artworks of the Indigenous people, it is so sad to see how unfairly they have been treated, and how this has had an impact on the exploitation of their work. The fact that their culture is not taken as seriously as others, means that indigenous people have been taken advantage of. It is not fair that other people are making a huge profit on fake Indigenous art and their historical culture and stories. For a lot of the indigenous people. they live in remote areas and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for employment, so taking away their income source is insanity. However, what is nice to see that there has finally been some change in recent years to help the Indigenous artists through contemporary companies like Willie Weston, who showcase their work. And like the Australian Indigenous Fashion Week, where the profile of the Aboriginal artists is also raised. Hopefully, in the future, we will witness more change for the better more frequently, in helping support the Indigenous people and stopping the forgeries of their works.

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Deutsch, A. (2017). Australia’s First Indigenous Fashion Week Launches, Aboriginal Model Samantha Harris Gives Us the Deets. [online] Fashionista. Available at: https://fashionista.com/2012/09/australias-first-indeginous-fashion-week-launches-aboriginal-model-samantha-harris-gives-us-the-deets [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Deutscherandhackett.com. (2017). BUDGERIGAR DREAMING (VERSION 6), 1972 | Deutscher and Hackett. [online] Available at: http://www.deutscherandhackett.com/auction/lot/budgerigar-dreaming-version-6-1972 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
Harmon, S. (2017). Albert Namatjira: vivid watercolours of the Australian outback – in pictures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jul/28/albert-namatjira-vivid-watercolours-of-australias-outback-in-pictures [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
http://www.chop.com.au, L. (2017). CooeeArt Since 1981. [online] Cooeeart.com.au. Available at: http://www.cooeeart.com.au/gallery/artworks/artist/daniel_walbidi/cooee_13964/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Indigenous Instyle. (2017). Ethical Buying of Aboriginal Art – Indigenous Instyle. [online] Available at: http://www.indigenousinstyle.com.au/ethical-buying-of-aboriginal-art/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery. (2017). Gloria Petyarre Paintings & Artist Profile – Japingka Gallery. [online] Available at: https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/collections/gloria-petyarre-paintings/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
WILLIE WESTON. (2017). ENTER. [online] Available at: https://www.willieweston.com/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Wind, G. (2017). Utopia : Gloria TAMERRE PETYARRE – Leaves in the Wind. [online] Aboriginaldream.com. Available at: http://www.aboriginaldream.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&view=productdetails&virtuemart_product_id=162&virtuemart_category_id=9 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Books –
Google Books. (2017). Journeys to the Interior. [online] Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FgFPIkvhL9UC&pg=PA229&lpg=PA229&dq=1999+daniel+walbidi&source=bl&ots=oQzLfOCAJs&sig=34jMRhSyb2SF6uSdwDok9TfNuhY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1nI3Qp4LYAhWCIsAKHX1iARAQ6AEIRjAL#v=onepage&q=1999%20daniel%20walbidi&f=false [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].
Google Books. (2017). Modern Fashion Traditions. [online] Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=nfwpDAAAQBAJ&pg=PT105&lpg=PT105&dq=aboriginal+art+in+modern+textiles+interiors&source=bl&ots=B53jtSRvIq&sig=BgrCPruAvCT_d9C-kMI-5pU2aFU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjGhoL0nvXXAhUKBcAKHTdfBRsQ6AEIVTAP#v=onepage&q=aboriginal%20art%20in%20modern%20textiles%20interiors&f=false [Accessed 10 Dec. 2017].

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