On Wednesday 25 August, Frank Panucci of Community Partnerships, Australia Council for the Arts, addressed the large crowd at Design Centre Tasmania. Before officially opening the rrala manta manta exhibition, Frank recognised the traditional owners of the land, and presented the following…
“It is fitting that rrala manta manta assumes an important position at the opening of the Junction 2010, Regional Arts Australia conference.
At its core, rrala manta manta is MORE than an exhibition – although clearly, it is a very fine exhibition. rrala manta manta: strong; long way, long time is about sharing through storytelling; in the process building communities, and strengthening and articulating identities – RECLAIMING, MAINTAINING and CELEBRATING.
But – at the centre – what is being shared?
rrala manta manta goes beyond a formal sharing of skills, traditions and philosophies that have been explored in workshops and will be explored in tomorrow’s forum, and goes beyond the strategic dimension of cultural maintenance – as crucial as intergenerational learning is.
In my experience of the rrala manta manta exhibition, that ‘going beyond’ reveals two themes for me:
HEART and CONNECTEDNESS.
The heart is the vital organ integral to the health and maintenance of the physical being – the physical presence.
But it is also a home for deeply held emotional and spiritual experience – something that transcends the physical and exists fully formed and fully realised in glimpses, in fragments, and outside of linear time. It is a layered, powerful, complementary blend…
The nature of quiet contemplation and explosive physicality in the works of rrala manta manta are balanced harmoniously through complementarity: traditional skills and contemporary forms; visual and physical forms, and aural abstraction that is carried on and in the air; a use of positive and negative space that is simple but layered in its approach and meaning.
And this is all SELF-DETERMINED. The discourse is not managed, it is not contrived, it is not censored. It is an articulate communication that goes beyond words – a reclaiming of space and of assurance; a maintenance and evolution of forms and lessons at the hearts of cultural self-identity, representation, understanding and sharing; and celebration through connecting within and to a diverse range of communities.
The connection is important.
It is clear that a strong sense of bonded social capital exists in this group of artists, the expert Steering Committee, and their respective communities. Connection also exists to and through tradition to new ways of working that can express new ideas, express old ideas to new listeners and thinkers, help express hopes and aspirations, and can critically dissect the changing natures and impacts of colonial exploitation.
And this connectedness is achieved because artists are leaders, can give expression to communities’ unheard or silenced voices in a potent distilled language that goes beyond the limitations of the fixed word (and its attendant prerequisite learning) into the realm of emotional response and collective spirituality – the realm of the heart and shared emotional climes.
And this is rrala manta manta’s challenge. And it is a challenge posited in Junction 2010 so as to set a tone for self-reflection and growth…
Like rrala manta manta, how can the arts of regional Australia be even more representative of the diversity of practice in community, in towns, in schools, in councils, in hospitals? How can the distinct cultural and political voices of all Australians be given air, and how can these properly feed into a truly representative and self-determined regional Australia?
I’d like to express my congratulations to the artists for a provocative, heart-achingly beautiful exhibition, and commend to you the excellent catalogue essay by Melanie Kershaw.
I take great delight, friends, in declaring rrala manta manta: strong; long way, long time open.”