By Renee Wood
Thursday 5 August First Nations Curator Stacie Piper was placing the final touches on the WILAM BIIK exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art – the same day Victoria was plummeted into lockdown six where Greater Melbourne remains today.
However, the gallery and Ms Piper have remained dedicated to sharing parts of the exhibition through other means while restrictions are in place.
Social media and virtual interactions have become a tool to help build a greater understanding of the exhibition Wilam Biik, which means Home Country in the Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people.
“We wanted to share little bite sizes of culture and country, stuff that fills people up and makes people feel connected to this place. Everybody’s descended from nature so I think really any anybody is going to connect to it,” Ms Piper said.
“It’s focusing on the beauty of country and the beauty of what we have right here and I love that we’ve got this to share online with people. We’re just trying to find more ways to share it, so that people can feel more connected while they’re in lockdown.”
On instagram, TarraWarra has crafted dedicated posts on elements of country to inform and inspire viewers of what’s to come in Wilam Biik.
“We did ochre, we’ve done pelt and then we’ve got the river the water, so we’re celebrating country and its beauty. I’d say that a lot of people once we’re out of lockdown, they’ll be excited to not only come see the show, but get out and connect to country.”
The interactions follow the exhibition that’s showcasing First Peoples of South East Australia and their Country. Ms Piper said the show starts with a welcome to country before you’re invited through to admire ancestral tools followed by contemporary artists.
“We need to acknowledge country and the elders first so that people who walk into the space into the gallery feel welcome and feel safe and feel like they’re part of a cultural experience.”
Ms Piper arranged the exhibition to infuse a connection of past and present practices through contemporary artists following songlines – with songlines discussed through an online video.
“Songlines are a really big topic so I just wanted to explain how I incorporated them and I just wanted to explain how I incorporated them.
“For me looking at the bush country which is Wurundjeri, Taungurong and Gunai and that’s beautiful mountain ash old growth forest country, then you’ve got all the river systems, which I explained that connect all the other mobs. So I went through and connected all the artists in the show and that’s how I selected the artists.”
Another element of the exhibition that has been made available on the website is a playlist of songs of Home Country as the exhibion offers a whole sensory experience.
“We’ve got a vibration by Steven Rhall that represents that geological land movement, so when you’re in there you’ve got this sensory experiences as well as visual and that’s the voices of community.
“So we might have visual artists, but these are our artists who sing country and they take you there with their talents and I think it’s a really nice element as an online experience.”
The community’s encouraged to take part in the virtual experiences before the gallery reopens to gain a greater understanding of what Home Country means and how to take steps to heal it, with the exhibition having undertones of a call to arms for the climate emergency.
“We hope that people will leave this exhibition feeling connected, because we all call this place home.
“A lot of people don’t realise the history and the beauty and the fact that we’ve got some of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet just up the road and they’re critical to the planet.
“So really bringing that to the public’s attention and then advocating for it, or even just caring for it through their own daily actions and that’s whether you’re more conscious about the wood that you buy, or the paper that you purchase.
“That’s something that I’m looking at doing next online with the team, a little little list of conscious things you can do.”
WILAM BIIK will open to the public when restrictions are lifted. For more information visit https://www.twma.com.au/exhibitions/wilam-biik/