Colonialism continues to generate objects. This is a metonymic painting that stands for my brief experience of Aboriginal life in the Northern Territories. It is a souvenir. The Munupi Arts & Crafts Association, where this painting was made, is reached by taking a small twelve-seater plane from Darwin to Melville Island. At the Arts & Crafts Association I met Lydia Burak and many of the other Aboriginal women who work on their paintings from 9 to 5 each weekday, sitting at long tables in Associationís airy work-shop. In the great cities of southern Australia Aboriginal art is highly commoditised, well displayed in museums and on sale for high prices in commercial galleries. The artists themselves are eerily absent. A visit to the Northern Territories where much of this art is made induces shock, so great is the slippage between presentation and practice. The Associationís manager Tara Leckey sits at her computer, documenting the work and trying to anticipate the demands of the art market for Aboriginal work. The detached, patient mien of the artists, surrounded by their dogs, paid on a work for dole system under the Community Development Programme, leads one to reflect on art and agency - for these are colonised people who will never have their post-colonial moment.
Lydia Burak (b.1937 Australia) is a painter and lives in Melville Island.
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