Culture, Settlement and Community Explored in Sydney’s Dharug Country Interactive Artwork


The aboriginal history of Blacktown in Dharug Country, a western suburb of Sydney, is rich, culturally significant and at times unsettling to tell.

The Blacktown Art Centre’s Songlines and Sightlines exhibition returns for its second year and tells this story of the region through those who see its many facets.

The artwork explores an intertwined history of the region invites local artists to portray their connection to the land and ancestral ties to the region, and community involvement in making their additions.

Dharug artist and knowledge holder Leanne Mulgo Watson (Redpath) spoke of Blacktown’s history as a central place for its people, where many settled before moving to the area and, more recently, where its mother and grandmother grew up.

Ms Watson worked alongside fellow artist Dharug Erin Wilkins and urban designer Peter Rush on the project.

“The place was called Blacks Town after all our people who lived there,” Ms Watson said.

“Blacktown is quite important, but the whole country of Dharug is, for different reasons.

Community additions to the Songlines and Sightlines exhibition at the Blacktown Arts Centre. picture provided.

Ms Watson said the area was traditionally used for its proximity to natural resources and a site for the manufacture of stone tools.

It was also the site of the Blacktown Native Institute, a school for Aboriginal and Maori children which observed assimilation policies in the early 19th century.

“It’s a terrible story,” Ms Watson said.

His contribution to Songlines and Sightlines fosters local customs and the continued celebration of the region’s place in creation history in relation to contemporary Blacktown, without shirking the intrusive impact of colonization.

“I like to show in Songlines and Sightlines that we still have that connection, even though those places are developed,” she said.

“The Dharug people are still connected to this place and connected to this land.

“(In the artwork) we start with the story of creation and then move on to when it was about birds and animals that in our culture are our brothers and sisters. sisters.

“We weave our history into modern Blacktown, showing that we are still here and still have our culture in this place.”

Exhibit curator Tian Zhang said the concept encourages thinking about connection to place and a sense of belonging.

Songlines and Sightlines exhibition at the Blacktown Arts Centre. picture provided.

The collaborative element of the artwork allows for the expression of this connection.

Visitors are encouraged to add their own details to the piece.

“We wanted to explore Blacktown in a really participatory way,” Ms. Zhang said.

“Not just to see things from the artists’ point of view, but also to think about their own relationships and how they could show it on the wall as well.

Songlines and Sightlines is part of the city’s largest festival in Blacktown and opened on May 19 with local elders invited to make the first additions to the project.

The exhibition runs until July 2 at the Blacktown Arts Centre.


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