taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country opens at TMAG

Janice Ross's artwork of writing on wall

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) is honoured to present taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country as the major exhibition for spring-summer 2022–23.

Twenty Tasmanian Aboriginal artists and cultural makers share their creative responses to the stories of Ancestors and their cultural objects held in institutions around the world.

The project developed from gatherings held between 2018– 21 and followed decades-long research by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to re-locate long-missing objects of culture.

The project has been led by TMAG’s First Peoples Art and Culture team, who said that historical cultural objects had been sought for extended loans from various institutions in the UK, France and the United States.

“Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and the British Museum in London hold the oldest surviving rikawa (kelp containers), whilst the Field Museum in Chicago holds a unique cordage necklace, and Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford holds the only known model reed canoe,” Julie Gough, a curator from the First Peoples Art and Culture team, said.

“Long-missing shell necklaces, twined baskets, wooden, stone and bone tools, domestic objects and artworks have returned to lutruwita from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, the World Museum in Liverpool, and the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock.

“These objects join those sent from Museums Victoria in Melbourne, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Libraries Tasmania, the Royal Society of Tasmania, and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, as well as some held in TMAG.

“The cultural material returned on loan for this exhibition is a small example of our globally dispersed cultural heritage, and there is much work still to be done.”

taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country aims to facilitate Aboriginal reconnection with cultural objects that left the island in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as community relationships with institutions external to lutruwita/Tasmania.

“We hope that taypani milaythina-tu contributes to the pathway of future unconditional permanent returns,” said Julie.

Andrew Gall's work of ochre necklace

Zoe Rimmer, TMAG’s former Senior Curator of First Peoples Art and Culture, and one of the 20 artists involved, said that pakana researchers had been working for years to relocate objects and Ancestors spread throughout cultural institutions across the globe.

“I have personally had the unique experience of visiting precious cultural material in collection stores, but this is a privilege that many in our community cannot share,” Zoe said.

“To be able to bring some of our most unique cultural heritage material home through taypani milaythina-tu is an incredible opportunity for reconnection and healing.

“The possibilities to help revitalise and inspire cultural practices from this type of engagement are endless.”

TMAG Director Mary Mulcahy said taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country follows on from previous Tasmanian Aboriginal community–TMAG partnership projects kanalaritja: An Unbroken String (2016–20) and tayenebe: Tasmanian Aboriginal Women’s Fibre Work (2008–11).

“We are so pleased to be presenting not only the Ancestral objects on loan, but also the array of contemporary artworks the 20 Tasmanian Aboriginal artists have created in response,” Mary said.

These artworks encompass a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video and audio installation, and present a reconnection between people, objects and Country.

taypani milaythina-tu will be supported by a rich public program, including an opening weekend of talks from the Tasmanian Aboriginal artists featured in the exhibition, as well as curators from international institutions, which will take place on 1 and 2 October.

ttaypani title wall with artists' names

The contemporary artists who have contributed works for the exhibition are Andrew Gall, Bianca Templar, Bonnie Starick, Cheryl Mundy tremanya, Colleen Mundy, Cheryl Rose, Dave mangenner Gough, Janice Ross, Jeanette James, Jillian Mundy, Lillian Wheatley, Lola Greeno, Louise Daniels, maikutena Vicki-Laine Green, Rex Greeno, Takira Simon-Brown, Teresa Green, Theresa Sainty, Vicki West and Zoe Rimmer.

taypani milaythina-tu is supported by Detached, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Tasmanian Community Fund, Emirates, Hydro Tasmania, the University of Tasmania, TasNetworks, Pennicott Foundation, Jetty Foundation, The Royal Society of Tasmania, Avalon Coastal Retreat and Spring Bay Distillery.

taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country is open at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery from 1 October 2022 – 12 February 2023 in Argyle Galleries 1–4, ningina tunapri Gallery, and outside TMAG in the Welcome Garden, Dunn Place, and TMAG frontage, Custom House, Davey Street. Entry is free.

Image details: Installation view, taypani milaythina-tu: Return to Country, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2022