First Nations Art Gallery moves permanently to Bendigo Visitor Center

A new First Nations Gallery called Djaa Djuwima will be established inside the Bendigo Visitor Centre.

The gallery will host three exhibitions held each year and follows on from the successful Piinpi indigenous fashion exhibition hosted by Bendigo Art Gallery in 2020.

Aunty Lyn Warren is part of Wartaka, a creative advisory group set up to help develop Djaa Djuwima.

She said the name of the exhibition space meant showing and sharing the country of Djaara.

Aunty Lyn Warren hosts the First Nations Gallery.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

“I’m pretty proud to be involved in this,” she said.

“With the story of Dja Dja Wurrung and the story of the culture and the land we are on…I think it goes very well together.

“It’s fantastic. It’s so central and it will be so good for our people.”

Discover the country and the culture

The gallery will open its doors on November 24, with the first exhibition organized around the theme of Gutangarr Dja Dja Wurrung Djayi, which means: “You are on [or in] Country Dja Dja Wurrung”.

Janet Bromley, First Nations Arts Officer, will curate the exhibit.

She said Djaa Djuwima took 10 years to make.

“When I arrived in Bendigo I was like, ‘Where is it?'” she said.

a picture of a room
There will be a cleaning of the building before it is transformed into a First Nations art space.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

“It’s what people have been doing for 60,000 years…it’s in our DNA, it’s [art] is our way of communicating.”

She said local First Nations artists previously only had dedicated exhibition space once a year in Bendigo.

“I have hosted the Knuldoorong Art Show at Dudley House every NAIDOC week,” she said.

“We’ve gone from 15 dedicated artists to 30 or more and I’m finding more and more all the time.”

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Janet Bromley, Yorta Yorta wife, made the emu print in the Djaa Djuwima logo.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Ms. Bromley is keen to see the community of artists grow in Djaa Djuwima.

“We have a lot of young people now. When we last showed, we had two high school kids,” she said.

“For First Nations people to see their peers here in the community, in this space, I think that will be a big thing.”

Djaa Djuwima is expected to feature painting, weaving, tailoring, carpentry and artifacts.

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The Bendigo Visitor Center Post Office Gallery will be transformed into Djaa Djuwima, the Bendigo First Nations Gallery.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Running from success

In July 2020, the Bendigo Art Gallery held its Piinpi exhibition which showcased Indigenous culture through fashion and design, and followed the success of exhibitions by the art gallery’s royal family, Balenciaga and Marilyn Monroe.

Mayor Andrea Metcalf said Djaa Djuwima was an exciting and important cultural step in reconciliation.

She said the permanent gallery would help the community better understand, recognize and respect the living culture and creativity of traditional land keepers.

“Djaa Djuwima is poised to become a beacon for contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and creators living in or connected to the Greater Bendigo region,” she said.

“It will be a safe place for creative and cultural expression, to explore identity, heritage, connection and storytelling.”

a picture of weaving
First Nations artist Janet Bromley creates art by hand weaving.(ABC Central Victoria: Sian Gard)

Ms. Metcalf also said Djaa Djuwima was a response to a huge demand for First Nations artwork.

“Visitors are looking for artwork from our traditional owner groups,” she said.

“Artists can be artists. They know they’ll have a place to sell their work.”

First Nations creators are invited to express their interest in presenting at the first exhibition by October 13th.

The exhibition will open on Thursday November 24 and will run until February next year.

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