First Nations exhibition challenges the Garden's colonial past

03 August 2023

A new First Nations art exhibition which shines a spotlight on the important native plants and trees often dismissed by early European settlers opens at Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Ruled Us, Ruled Us, Ruled Us is a new, specially commissioned exhibition by multi-disciplinary artist Brad Darkson in consultation with Aunty Lynette Crocker, Ngangki Burka Senior Kaurna woman, and Uncle Moogy Sumner.

The exhibition debuts as part of the South Australian Living Arts Festival and has been commissioned by Adelaide Contemporary Experimental (ACE) in conjunction with the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium (BGSH).

Melding sound, sculpture and digital collage, the exhibition responds to the way South Australia's cultural and physical environment has transformed since first contact with European settlers.

The Museum's cases hold objects brought into the space by Darkson, his family and members of the community as well as cultural artefacts - including coolamons, shields and spears - carved from native trees within the living collection of the Botanic Gardens.

The objects are presented alongside archival photographs of the garden which have been digitally manipulated to highlight the glaring gaps in the historical narrative, where stories have been ignored and significant plants and trees overlooked.

Aunty Lynette's voice resonates inside the Museum, reflecting on the ongoing impact of colonisation on First Nations people, but also on the plants and animals that live on Country.

BGSH Deputy Director - Public Engagement, Allison Russell said the new exhibition is important cultural learning opportunity for all garden visitors.

"It is highly significant to have new cultural objects on display in the garden that have been created from our living collection," she said.

"It provides a chance for visitors to reflect on the impacts of colonisation on First Nations people and their Country.

"It's an important opportunity for Reconciliation for an institution which has traditionally viewed plants through a Western lens."

AEC Artistic Director Patrice Sharkey said it approached Mr Darkson to create a new work which would draw upon his capacity to engage site and sound in simply but effective ways.

"ACE is proud to partner with BGSH and together our organisations have supported Brad to undertake important and, at times, difficult conversations concerning land, power, Western economies, and the importance of keeping culture alive," Sharkey said.

Ruled Us, Ruled Us, Ruled Us is open daily at the Museum of Economic Botany from 31 July and runs until 1 October. Entry is free.

The exhibition is supported by Arts South Australia's Arts Recovery Fund and the City of Adelaide's Public Art Grant.

For more information about the exhibition visit this link.

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