Strangers on the Shore
Gallery Holmes a Court @No. 10
Image: Sandra Harben, Kelsey Ashe, 2022. 'Wam Wardanup doyntj doyntj koorliny' (Strangers on the Shore going along together). Large Scale Screen Print 920cm x 204cm and Audio Installation on Loop.
An artwork in multiple parts; poetry, image, story and sound, which reflects an ongoing dialogue between koorta (friends) about the nature of place, time and belonging on these shores.
The everlasting quality of the ocean stretches into the past and the future, infinite and eternal. 'Wam Wardanup' – Strangers on the Shore - invites you to sit quietly and consider, doyntj doyntj koorliny – (going along together) and danjoo koorliny (walking together), with koorndarn – (respect) wer nih (and listening), with mutual acknowledgement and sharing of stories.
Artists include: Lea Taylor, Kelsey Ashe with Sandra Harben, Johnny Bulun Bulun, Sandra Hill, Jo Darbyshire with Cherish Marrington, Laurel Nannup, Anna Nazzari and Michael Jalaru Torres.
With thanks to the Janet Holmes à Court Collection and Mossenson Gallery for the loan of artwork and WA Maritime Museum for the loan of artefacts.
WAM WARDANUP - Strangers on the Shore is an exhibition about cross-cultural encounters along the longitudinal arch of the Western Australian coastline. This story runs from the 1600’s onwards, looking at early encounters between First Nations peoples and Macassan and Chinese traders and European shipwreck survivors. The ocean and the point at which it reaches the land is a charged space ripe for artistic interrogation. The artists in this exhibition have tackled this space through diverse mediums and from multiple perspectives.
Within this coastal space, being or perceiving another as a stranger is necessarily transient. Anyone who is unfamiliar is a stranger at first sight and once contact is made this state can readily dissolve from the unfamiliar to the familiar as humans engage one another across cultural and linguistic divides. There is a seldom used Greek term, Euxenia, described as ‘high regard for the stranger’ or extending hospitality. Many instances of cross-cultural encounter on the West Coast were of mutual curiosity, care and hospitality, as much as they were of misunderstanding, violence and discord.
Several of the artists in Strangers on the Shore respond to the WA Maritime Museum archival collection of the same name. This archive is ‘an electronic database containing all known European and Asian shipwrecks around Western Australia's coastline where survivors have had Indigenous social contact.’ Through interrogating this archive and the many stories of shipwreck, survival and cross-cultural encounter, the artists engage in a critique of colonialism, shine a light onto and question accepted histories, acknowledge truths and imagine other possibilities. This exhibition asks that we re-visit these histories and try to better understand shared moments of our collective history that propel myth and the shaping of our sense of cultural identity.
The exhibition is a critique as much as it marks steps towards doyntj doyntj koorliny (going along together) danjoo koorliny (walking together), with koorndarn (respect), and nih (listening) to mutual acknowledgements and a sharing of stories. Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists unpack the idea of a stranger/s on the shore, as a complex and layered idea, open to multiple interpretations. In discussion and with cultural consultation, artists in this space participate in the ‘archival turn’ the zeitgeist of overdue re-adjustment of known histories that signifies that a powerfully healing and syncretic cultural shift is underway.
Margo Neale (2021), Senior Indigenous Curator and principal advisor to the Director of the National Museum of Australia, encourages that when we expand our worldview to encompass ‘learn[ing] from the Aboriginal archive embodied in Country, in combination with the Western Archive, this knowledge creates a third archive, available to all.’