Instead of Queen Victoria…

I gave Queen Victoria a miss the other day – not that I was uninterested. No, rather I discovered some good things on NITV.

010944_aeda That’s Rhoda Roberts interviewing NITV’s Stan Grant in an episode of In the Frame. The one I watched was with singer songwriter Shellie Morris. “…shares stories and photos from her childhood, her travels around the world and her music. Shellie talks about her adoption and the journey of finding her family in North East Arnhem land.” I hadn’t realised that she spent much of her early years with a much loved adoptive family in Sutherland Shire.

On a subsequent night I saw an episode of Colour Theory with Richard Bell. It was an artist new to me: Dale Harding.

Dale is a Bidijira man with his roots firmly planted in Central Queensland and Brisbane. Trained by artists Jennifer Herd and Gordon Hookey, and mentored by Richard Bell and Tony Albert, Dale Harding’s use of forms such as cross stitching is rich in colour and somewhat totemic. He uses this form to talk about the servitude of Aboriginal women, taking stories from his grandparents. A versatile artist, Harding uses various mediums to express the issues important to him.

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It was really informative and most interesting. As this reviewer noted of the first series:

Bell interviews minimally, letting the artists speak for themselves. An activist who courts the camera with his provocative political art, Bell admits he is a confirmed city dweller who can still be surprised by Aboriginal art.

”I hadn’t even thought about the diversity until I saw all this art so different from mine. All were political and most of them as direct as mine,” he says.

The stunning cinematography of Colour Theory reveals the big ambitions of a small team on a modest budget that nevertheless travelled widely to capture, and juxtapose, desert and urban landscapes.

”I would love to reach an arts audience and an indigenous and non-indigenous audience,” says producer Mitchell Stanley…

See an exhibition showcased during the program.

Dale Harding

‘One of the countless injustices contributing to the damage was the systematic exploitation of young Aboriginal women and girls forced into years of mostly unpaid domestic servitude’.

Harding’s own mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all ‘in service’, and over the years they have told him their stories and those of their contemporaries. These cultural and familial memories are loaded with the racism of our nation’s histories and our continued silencing of them. These stories have been the single biggest influence on Harding’s work to date.

Tess Allas

Critic John McDonald writes:

Dale Harding is the youngest of the trio. His most telling contribution is an installation of five tiny hessian sacks, embroidered with crowns, called bright eyed little dormitory girls. It refers to the hessian dresses girls in institutions were forced to wear as a form of demeaning punishment. The piece serves as a poignant reminder of the sort of ‘care’ handed out to children in the not-so-distant past. Another piece called one’s own country is less successful, being nothing more than a rusty ball of steel wool, a needle and thread. The ideas behind the work are vaguely conceived, occupying too much wall space to too little effect.

What I saw on Colour Theory certainly bears out the first part of that, and there were other works I found impressive enough too. The documentary had the advantage of fleshing out the works with the country and family behind them.