Vanuatu feature film

tanna_dain_and_wawa_on_rockCheck out the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of this new feature film about marriage, conflict and kastom in Tanna, Vanuatu. Made in close collaboration between professional film makers from Australia and people from the Yakel  tribe on the island of Tanna, the film makers showed Rolf De Heers Ten Canoes to the community to give them an idea of the kind of film they were interested in making and then worked with non-professional local actors to make the film. You can read a review from Variety of the film which recently screened at the Venice Film Festival, winning two awards. It has it’s Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival in October, and I hope it will be screened in the new cinema in Port Vila soon too!

Indigenous Australia comics at the National Library of Australia


Clockwise from bottom left: The Adventurous Journey of Yoonecara: Aboriginal Legend, Tom Flynn, Pearl Diver: an Adventure Comic and Lil Ab ‘Rijnal on the back cover of Kayo Comic, no. 4. image from National Library of Australia


See this great blog post from the National Library of Australia about their collection of comics from Indigenous Australia. The collection goes back to early days including works in Aboriginal languages and kriol as well as some contemporary ones from WA’s own Magabala books  such as Brenton McKenna’s graphic novel trilogy Uby’s Underdogs and the NEOMAD series from Big hART’s Yijala Yala project.

“Insider” documentary photography

Raphaela Rosella I really love the work of Australian documentary photographer  Raphaela Rosella who has recently won the World Press Prize for portraiture. I have followed her documentary photography  a number of years, especially her work about young mum’s and women. In this interview with her by the Sydney Morning Herald she describes the context of the photograph above from her series ‘We met a little early but I get to love you longer‘, as well as providing some nice illumination of some of the factors involved in being a so-called “inside” photographer.


‘Cut the Sky’ – contemporary dance as cultural history and storytelling

Cut the Sky promo pic

I’ve been musing of late on how collaborative art is one of our most pervasive forms of cultural history. In an e-book published by the Griffith Review,  Creating Australia Chairperson Sue-Anne Wallace asked last year whether community cultural development practitioners should call themselves historians. If we consider that in communities all over the globe people come together, often facilitated by professional artists of one shape or another, to collaborate to make creative art works that draw on local stories and that are shaped by the cultural aesthetics and influences of those who participate in their making, each collaborative community art work can indeed be seen as a small history unto itself.

What would a museum exhibition look like if it sought to tell  the history of particular places and people through the art works made in and with specific communities? There are a few great examples I can think of, but I’d love to see more… Continue reading

Side by Side back in action & interview with Big hART’s Scott Rankin

After a long pause, Side by Side blog is back in action.

Check out a great interview with Big hART director Scott Rankin recently broadcast on ABC radio national from the Melbourne Festival ‘Talking Arts’ series. Rankin talks about the collaborative practices that he and his creative team use in working with communities in Australia in which they seek to make invisible stories visible. Of particular interest is his discussion of the importance of creating high quality artistic works with community collaborators.

Workshopping with Roebourne Kids. Photo from Big hART.
Workshopping with Roebourne Kids. Photo from Big hART.

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1000 Voices – online storytelling as advocacy

Thanks to reader Naomi Sunderland for writing in with a link to 1000 Voices – a project gathering first person stories of people living with disabilities in Australia to use in disability research, advocacy and policy change. Hosted at Griffith University and sponsored by a range of government and non-government orgs, the project is aiming to gather the stories of 1000 people living with disabilities. The stories so far are mainly text based – sometimes transcriptions of interviews accompanied by some images, but there is capacity to post multi-media works and video.

From the USA comes a project with the same name – the 1000 voices archive – which is an online archive and tool for social advocacy. The video vignettes have either been drawn from larger films on particular topics, or are short form films made specifically for the 1000 voices archive project.

The Australian 1000 Voices project is linked to a research project, so the stories are forming data for the research. The US archive is well resourced with tools about the themes taken up in each story – such as laws supporting paid parental leave, or campaigns to deal with new coal power plants being built on farm land – which are made available for community organisers and others to use the stories in social action and direct advocacy.

How do the stories get made? How do they get used? How affective are they as social change tools? Looking at these two projects it strikes me that the web is a powerful tool for creating these kinds of story collections and making them publicly accessible, but we don’t have all that much info about how they are being used and what, if any, impact they have… Something to follow up on…

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Debates on agency, management and interventionism in Aboriginal Art

Contemporary Australian Aboriginal art can be argued to be one of the most well known examples of collaborative ethnographic practice using creative art – the multiple functions of works, the layers of inter and cross-cultural collaboration shaping the works, the underlying relationship of Aboriginal painting to story, culture and cultural expression – all qualities that mark the broad category of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art as a form of collaborative creative ethnographic practice. See the recent Canning Stock Route exhibition “Yiwarra Kuju” at the Australian Museum for illustration of what I mean. Continue reading

Exactitudes – categorizing with the camera

Series 65. Carry Daddies – Rotterdam 2005 by Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek

I am interested in the ways people use photography to capture the specific and link it to the more general and vice a versa… to do the work of coding and categorizing – so often aimed at in research – using the visual as the primary tool. So here is a cool project looking at styles of dress in different sub-groups, a collaboration by photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek that lives somewhere in the borderlands of documentary, visual anthropology, pop-culture and art. Check it out: it’s called Exactitudes – to play on the specifics of each persons individuality and the linking attitudes that form a sub-group.

Visual Ethnographies of Place – during and after

How do we use visual ethnography to represent places? Landscape images alone often render a place somewhat opaque – capturing a static moment, leaving out the dynamism of country, weather, sensory experience, encounters, people and their lived stories. For me some of the most successful uses of the visual in telling stories of place rely on layering, building up pictures over time or from different points of view.

An interesting project that is attempting to represent the many facets of place using  visual forms is the Pilbara Project – the most recent project of FORM, Continue reading