As First Nations women, we adorn our bodies for many reasons. For some, the act of adorning harnesses the strength and power of our Ancestors. Our bodies are carriers of thousands of years of cultural knowledge, and when we adorn them we are expressing our pride in our identity, and the continuation and evolution of our culture. 

They Shield Us is an exhibition that draws on the Koorie Heritage Trust’s Collection along with new works by artists Yaraan Bundle, Djirri Djirri Dance Group, Isobel Morphy-Walsh, Marilyne Nicholls, Laura Thompson and Lisa Waup. In creating new works, each artist will spend time with the Koorie Heritage Trust Collection, gaining invaluable insight and inspiration. These objects have stories woven, stitched, painted and sewn into them. The exhibition will look at how the acts of creating, sharing and wearing cultural adornments shape our identities as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

They Shield Us conveys the act of cloaking one’s self in culture and the many reasons why we adorn our bodies as contemporary First Nations women including channeling Ancestral strength and protection.


What is being NATIVE and how does a NATIVE person see the world?

The landscape talks to us through colours and texture far beyond what the untrained eye can see – through the shift in colours in the sky and water, the contrast from land to sea and the emotional connection to country.

Being NATIVE in the past was a negative experience, with a system that was designed to constantly hold down NATIVE people and take away or not recognise our rights and values. Being NATIVE was viewed as being literally part of the landscape, like livestock that was owned and abused.

Being NATIVE today reflects on the survival and resistance of not only the first peoples of this land but also the longest living culture on the planet. Culture is in a revival stage and the values of looking after country have become mainstream. NATIVE people are at the forefront of protecting land and sea and the native animals that share this land.

The systemic injustice of Australia’s past policies and views of being NATIVE has been hidden for generations, but the use of modern storytelling has started to illuminate this history for a wider audience. Hopefully this series, as an abstract slice of what NATIVE means as a word, connection and view point, can shift the audience from ignorance to empathy to make change for the future.

NATIVE will exhibit on the 4th may to 18th May, during the Head On Photo Festival at the Cooee Art Gallery in Paddington, Sydney