Aboriginal Art Exhibition in Israel

August 4, 2010 by J-Wire Staff
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The Australian Embassy in Israel has organised a special exhibition of Aboriginal art…”Ancient Lands” – Australian Indigenous Art in Israel.

Special guests from Australia attending this month’s exhibition include Solomon Booth, an artist from Torres Strait Islands,and Anthony Murphy, curator and art center director

The art works will be exhibited at the Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival in Jerusalem, and at the Shifron Gallery in Old Jaffa

The Israeli public has a rare opportunity to experience the rich and highly varied culture of indigenous Australians. Contemporary works of art, created by Aboriginal artists from the Injalak Arts Center, and art from the Torres Strait Islands, will be displayed at the exhibitions being held at Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival in Jerusalem, and at the Shifron Gallery in Old Jaffa.

Solomon Booth photo: Anthony Murphy

Ambassador Andrea Faulkner told J-Wire: “The Australian Embassy is very proud to support this special exhibition of Australian indigenous art. This kind of artwork is rarely seen outside Australia. It is exciting that so many Israelis will have the opportunity to experience and learn about the art and peoples of Western Arnhemland and the Torres Strait Islands for the first time.”

The indigenous population of Australia comprises two ethnically and culturally diverse peoples: the Aborigines and the inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands. Historically, the Aborigines originate from the continental Australian and from Tasmania whereas the Torres Strait Islanders come from islands located between the northern tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea. There is a very wide range of indigenous cultures in the different regions of Australia who practice traditions, cultural customs and artistic styles that are unique to them. The exhibition in Israel offers an opportunity to gain some insight into the art of these two indigenous groups, through the work of Aboriginal artists from the Injalak center and through the work of Torres Strait Islander artist Solomon Booth, who will visit Israel during the exhibition.

Injalak Arts and Crafts is the official arts center of western Arnhem Land. It is a non-profit, community enterprise.  It has over 200 members made up of artists and weavers from numerous communities and outstations in the surrounding region. Injalak Arts acts as both art school and social hub where artists gather on a daily basis, sitting on the ground and grinding their natural ochres and creating their works of art on bark fibres, paper and canvas, and a wide range of materials.

Aboriginal artist prepares his reed brish

For the first time ever, the works of more than 20 Injalak artists will be exhibited in Israel, in Jerusalem and Jaffa.  The western Arnhem Land painting style is typified by the art of Oenpelli, in which x-ray paintings, forceful images of spirit ancestors and delicate paintings of the Mimi spirits predominate. These figurative images of hunting animals and stick-like figures have come to symbolise, for many, the very essence of all Aboriginal Art.

Today the works of Injalak’s artists are held in many of the world’s major public and private collections.  Some of Injalak’s most prominent artists, whose work will be featured in Israel, include: Djawida Nadjongorle, Jimmy Kalarriya Namarnyikk and Glen Namundja.

West Arnhemland, in the Northern Territory of mainland Australia, is home to the Kunwinjku Aboriginal people. The artists of this spectacular region are part of the world’s longest continuous artistic tradition and belief system, going back at least 40,000 years. West Arnhemland is region of sweeping sandstone escarpments, rocky outcrops and bountiful wetlands. It has thousands of sacred places or ‘djang’ (dreaming) sites which depict creation stories or tales of original ancestor beings.

It is a landscape rich in poetic myths, where spirit beings inhabit every crevice, creating life and law. It is a place of great import to those trying to learn about, and from, an ancient culture. Throughout history, painting has served to connect the Kunwinjku to their sacred country. For millennia, they have painted their stories on the sandstone escarpments of their ancestral lands. Traditionally, Kunwinjku elders used paintings to pass on their knowledge of country and the spirit realm. Now it has become a way to keep their community strong; not only to teach the young people, but to provide employment and income.

The Australian Embassy is delighted to be able to bring Torres Strait Islander artist Solomon Booth to Israel to participate in the exhibitions in Jerusalem and Old Jaffa. His visit will be the first ever by an Australian indigenous artist to Israel. Torres Strait Islander printmakers are amongst the most prolific and important in Australia, drawing on ancient traditions of intricate carving and tattooing.

Booth’s works are held in collections at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia and Cambridge University in Britain. This year he was awarded the prestigious Gab Tatui Torres Strait Island Art Award. His works will be displayed in Jerusalem and Old Jaffa

Anthony Murphy, another visitor who will be in Israel to attend the exhibition, was Director of Injalak Arts from 1997 to 2010, when he lived and worked with the inhabitants of remote regions. He was recently appointed Director of the Ngalmun Lagau Minaral (NLM) Art and Culture Centre on Moa Island in the Torres Strait Islands. He has curated numerous exhibitions and filled several posts at the South Australian Parliament relating to the development of different areas of Aboriginal life.

The Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival was founded 35 years ago. This year the event incorporates works from 39 countries and by over 150 Israeli and international artists. The festival, which is produced by the Ariel Municipal Company, has become a Jerusalem tradition and the largest tourist and arts attraction of the summer.

Shifron Gallery was established 7 years ago by artist Ayal Shifron at Kedumin Square in Old Jaffa. The gallery also serves as the artist’s studio, feeding off the inspirations of Jaffa’s unique ambiance, the proximity to the sea and the ancient historic atmosphere and cultural meeting point. During the course of his travels around the world Ayal worked with many  artists, and he frequently hosts artists from different fields and cultures at his studio. The Ancient Lands exhibition, sponsored by the Australian Embassy of is part of this artistic endeavour.

Opening hours and special activities:

Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival in Jerusalem,

August 2-14, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. (except for Fridays), Sultan’s Pool, Jerusalem

Shifron Gallery, Old Jaffa, August 6-19, opening hours:

Friday – 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday – 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Sun.-Thu. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

10 Kedumim Square, Old Jaffa. Tel: 03-5185893

Solomon Booth will present his art at the Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival in Jerusalem every evening. Anthony Murphy and Solomon Booth will give a gallery talk about indigenous Australian art at Shifron Gallery on Saturday August 7 at 2 p.m.

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