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Still In My Mind

The Wave Hill Walk-Off has gone down in history as one of the defining moments for Indigenous land rights.

By Tamara Howie

In August 1966 more than 200 Aboriginal pastoral workers and their families walked off Vestey’s cattle station in pro-test of their appalling working conditions and treatment. 

A nine-year protest, led by revered leader Vincent Lingiari, culminated in the 1975 hand back of Gurindji land by the government, and began the Aboriginal land-rights legislation. 

An outcome of Brenda L. Croft’s practice-led doctoral research is Still in my mind: Gurindji location experience and visuality, a collaborative exhibition inspired by the words spoken by Lingiari, “That land... I’ve still got it on my mind.”

“Lingiari’s words, ‘That land... I still got it on my mind’ have resonated with me for some time – both inspiring the exhibition’s title and becoming a touchstone for the stories to be retold from diverse yet interlinked Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives,” she says.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Art Gallery acting curator Kellie Joswig says the exhibition goes deeper than just reflecting on the historic Walk-Off.

“There are lots of different elements to the exhibition – more personal delvings into contemporary Gurindji identity for Brenda L. Croft, and recognition of the Stolen Generations,” she says.

“It’s a huge exhibition with canvas paintings, archival photographs,  prints and there’s also a large audio-visual installation component. 

“It’s going to be quite hefty and thoroughly interesting for people interested in Australian history.”

Croft says the Walk-Off is significant to her as a Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra woman and Still in my mind was developed from her patrilineal family history research spanning more than three decades. 

Her research explored both her father’s and grandmother’s removal from their homeland in the Victoria River region to Kahlin Compound in Darwin, and involved retracing the steps of those who covered the 22-kilometre Walk-Off track, immersing herself in and on her father’s customary home-land and its multiple histories.

“I walked sections of it with my cousins, nephew, community Elders and non-Indigenous friends. I walked sections of it solo, and more than once.  I recorded moving image footage and audio while walking it, which became part of the moving image, multi-media work ‘Retrac(k)ing country and (s)kin’ in the exhibition,” she says.

“I thought about those who had walked it, although I was not trying to replicate their act of self-determination, as the original activists did it under great duress and resilience, women carrying children, looking for water in the heat of August 1966. 

“They were fearful that they would be shot. They camped in the riverbed and had to wait for supplies.

“My family’s layered history has always informed my creative practice,  and I was motivated to develop this exhibition in partnership with Karungkarni artists and Gurindji community members in tribute to those whose profound communal act of courage, resilience and determination changed the course of history.”

CDU Art Gallery will host a floor-talk on November 1 at 12pm with three artists from Karungkarni Art and Culture and Croft, and a panel discussion on November 2.

Thu 1 Nov – Sat 16 Feb | CDU Art Gallery | See the event listing

Thumbnail image: Brenda L Croft, ‘Self-portrait on country, Wave Hill’, pigment print on archival paper, 42 x 59.5cm; (detail) courtesy the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

Header image: Biddy Wavehill Yamawurr Nangala and Jimmy Wavehill Ngawanyja Japalyi, ‘Jinparrak (Old Wave Hill Station)’ (detail), 2015, synthetic of polymer paint on canvas, 150 x 96cm; courtesy the artists and Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation

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