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The artist pays her deep respects and acknowledgements to the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, on whose lands this exhibition is being held.

BRENDA L CROFT subalter/N/ative dreams

Fifty years ago, the Gurindji walked off their land as a powerful political action that has come to represent a rejection of discriminatory treatment, the affirmation of recognition of Indigenous ownership of land and a reassertion of Indigenous cultural integrity. This articulate claim of sovereignty and self-determination was celebrated decades later in the iconic imagery of soil passing from the hands of Gough Whitlam into the hands of Vincent Lingiari returning land that had always been Gurindji. A strong song-line links Brenda L. Croft and her body of work to this important cultural and intellectual action. Croft is Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra on her father’s side, so this is a song-line of kinship. It is also a song-line of a shared worldview and philosophy flowing through her work that staunchly asserts identity, connection to country and community but highlights continued discrimination and exclusion from the dominant culture. And it is also a creative song-line as Croft uses the language of visual imagery for a contemporary and confronting conversation through a creative practice that is deeply rooted in her heritage and culture. She is the inheritor of her father, Joe Croft’s, spirit of creative subversiveness. She is the keeper of the family memories, honouring their passing, vigilantly keeping her connections with them alive. She sees beyond the everyday, deciphers meanings and draws connections.

subalter/N/ative dreams brings together three interweaving narrative strands that reflects the values that Croft holds dear. In one series, Croft uses descriptors – full-blood, half-caste, quarter-caste, quadroon, abo – placing herself into each category. Croft toys with the literal representation of these words in font that makes them appear as though they have been lifted from the archives. These words are multiple-coded as they have been labels used to describe her and members of her family, including her father. Croft shifts meanings, substituting the hyphen (-) with a forward slash (/). This transforms a constructed category (“Full-blood”) into something beyond easy categorisation but is holistic and fluid – “full ” and “blood”. In Indigenous communities, we reject notions of blood quantum. If you are Aboriginal, you are Aboriginal, a concept that continues to confound nonIndigenous people. Textbooks and archives are littered with these labels. Unable/unwilling to understand us - perhaps incapable of doing so - colonisers have sought to examine, dissect and categorise us, obsessing over blood quantum, skull size and skin colour. Croft’s images decolonise. She places herself with the labels that have been attached to her father and herself. In her images, Croft transforms into each permutation, defiantly appropriating them with her own parody. She takes them all on showing that she is beyond them – indefinable by others; only definable by herself. She stands defiant, gazing back, no longer the object of study but the observer. You feel her gaze. You drink in her rebelliousness.

A complementing series of images explore the character and moods of her land – from dry roads, to life-giving water, this is a landscape that is harsh and unforgiving but also sustaining and serene. Croft’s images are stark but affectionate. Her connection is articulated in her gaze – and we see her land through her eyes.

She loves this land for its softness and its hardness, its good and its bad; she loves it completely even if she is still exploring its multiple meanings to her. She reclaims through pilgrimage, by being there, by feeling the ground underneath her, guided by her family and her instinct.

In another set of meditations, Croft is on a pilgrimage through a place of where her family suffered horrors. The Kahlin Aboriginal Compound in Darwin was notorious for the treatment of Indigenous people including medical and anthropological research. shut/mouth/scream is a graphic call and instinctual response across the generations, the decades – the smaller image, a truncated/amputated version of Croft’s grandmother, Bessie, taken at Kahlin Compound on 17 May 1934, exactly thirty years before Croft’s birth. She was labelled ‘Chinese/native/H/C’. When Croft discovered this image in the South Australian Museum archives in May 2014, she was incensed that her grandmother had been reduced to an incomplete series of body parts, not even allowed the humanity of a full facial shot, denying even the ability to assess family similarities. Croft’s family spent three weeks with her grandmother in May 1974, four decades after this recently revealed image had been taken. Bessie was then terminally ill, her face swollen and misshapen from the cancer that riddled her body. In tracing the ghosts of this family history, Croft calls reacts to this brutal history that is emblematic of the abuse endured by Indigenous people within the institutions of the colonial state, particularly children’s homes and prisons. Croft’s self-portrait mimics the way her grandmother was silenced but she places herself in unflinching resoluteness, fighting on behalf of all those who couldn’t, but also reminding us that the impact of deep trauma is intergenerational.

Combined, these three threads interweave to create a conversation that deconstructs and subverts attempts to categorise – and control – Indigenous people. Collectively, they reflect the violence inflicted upon Indigenous people over past generations due to the pervasive theories of racial superiority/inferiority, while at the same time celebrating the resilience of Indigenous peoples and the indelible connections they have with their homelands and with each other. They show the strength that is gained from place and that the right to define oneself as an essential part of being human. Croft, like her peers Fiona Foley, Destiny Deacon and Tracey Moffatt, has led the way in the visual reinterpretation of images of Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous women. subalter/N/ative dreams builds into this tradition but continues with thematics that Croft has long explored. Legacy matters to Croft. Her work has long been interested in community and kinship. Through deeply coded imagery, she has explored the themes of connectedness and resilience. Her work in Family Album (1991) embraced an Indigenous concept of family, countering the dominant narrative of dysfunction Indigenous communities. Through In My Father’s House and In my mother’s garden (1998) she explored more intimate family moments – the merging of her Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra and Anglo-Australian/Irish/German heritage - and challenged the dominant narratives around the ‘dangers’ of intermarriage. These were images layered with messaging that countered and contextualised, merging the power of the image with the power of the word. In a loving homage to her family, Peripheral Visions (2005) layered family memories and text, sometimes shown by in the negative – black becoming white. Family connection is the motif in Man About Town as Croft explores photographs of her father in his early life, before her parents met. Created after Joe Croft’s passing the series explored an urbane man, a far cry from the images of Aboriginal man as savage, but the series also brought him back to life, allowing Croft to get to know him in a different way as she mapped the eternal connection between parent and child. This exhibition builds on these past themes that have long engaged Croft but it is a clear evolution of her distinct voice, her continual project of un-defining and redefining, her profound interest in place and displacement, and the continual following of her own cultural song-lines, while also creating contemporary versions for others in her family to navigate. With subalter/N/ative dreams, Brenda L. Croft is passing something precious from her hands into ours. Professor Larissa Behrendt, 2016 Professor Larissa Behrendt is Professor of Law and Director of Research Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney, 2016

(front cover) full/blood, 2016 from blood/type pigment print, 111.2 x 90.5cm edition of 5 + 2AP Stock yard posts, first Wave Hill Station (1883 - 1924), 5 July 2015 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm editin of 5 + 2AP dark/blood light/blood, 2016 from blood/type pigment print, 110 x 87.3cm edition of 5 + 2AP Sunset, Buntine Highway, 30 October 2014 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm editin of 5 + 2AP shut/mouth/scream, 2016 from blood/type diptych, pigment prints (left side) 91 x 89.5cm, (right side) 110 x 89.3cm edition of 5 + 2AP Wave Hill, 23 June 2014 from Self-portraits on country pigment print, 42 x 59.5cm part of suite of 13 prints edition of 3 + 2AP Stone Axe from Bore 17, 11 June 2014 from Self-portraits on country pigment print, 42 x 59.5cm part of suite of 13 prints edition of 3 + 2AP Fight Racism, NT Intervention sign, Dagurgu, 17 May 2011 from Sign of the times pigment print, 70 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP NT Intervention sign, customised by John Leeman, Daguragu, 29 August 2011 from Sign of the times pigment print, 70 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP Native, 2016 from blood/type pigment print, 110 x 88.3cm edition of 5 + 2AP install of blood/type at STILLS Gallery, Sydney for Brenda L Croft subalter/N/ative dreams 27 July - 27 August 2016 photo: Bronwyn Rennex ABO.riginal, 2016 from blood/type pigment print, 110 x 90.5cm edition of 5 + 2AP

Self-portraits on country, 2014 13 pigment prints, 42 x 59.5cm each edition of 3 + 2AP Wave Hill Walk Off Track, Jinparrak (Old [2nd] Wave Hill Station to Station Creek, #4), 1 September 2014 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm editin of 5 + 2AP Wave Hill, Victoria River country, 2014-2016 21 pigment prints, 59.5 x 84cm each edition of 2 + 2AP Ghost tears #1, Wave Hill, 14 March 2016 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP Horseshoes and flowers, Jinparrak (Old [2nd] Wave Hill Station), 5 April 2015 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP Cross on the hill, Kalkaringi, 16 March 2016 from Wave Hill, Victoria River country pigment print, 59.5 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP Aunty Croft #1, 6 November 2014 from Kahlin Aboriginal Compound site, 1913 - 1939, Darwin pigment print, 39 x 59cm edition of 5 + 2AP Self-portrait #2, 7 April 2015 from Channel Island Leprosarium site, 1931 - 1955, Channel Island pigment print, 39 x 59cm edition of 5 + 2AP Plot site - Croft Joseph, known as ‘Handsome Joe Croft’, b. Vic 1870; station cook; unmarked 812, d 10 Janurary 1934, 6 November 2014 from Handome Joe Croft Senior’s gravesite, Darwin Gardens Cemetery pigment print, 39 x 59cm edition of 5 + 2AP Joseph Croft (1926 - 1996) grave, Kalkaringi cemetery, 4 July 2015 from Kalkaringi cemetery pigment print, 40 x 59.5cm edition of 5 + 2AP Grannie Bessie’s cottage foundation site, RDCH, 5 November 2014 (opposite) from Retta Dixon Children’s Home site, 1946-1982, Darwin pigment print, 59.6 x 84cm edition of 5 + 2AP

The artist expresses her deep gratitude to the following people and organisations without whose assistance this exhibition would not have been possible: My brother Tim, my sister-in-law Tia and their children, Luca, Sasha and Maddie, for all their unwavering support throughout my research project The incredible staff and installation crew at Stills Gallery, Paddington Aunty Nancy Croft, Aunty Kathy Mills, Aunty Barbara Raymond, Maurie Ryan Japarta, Josie Crawshaw, Les Huddleston, Ursula Raymond and Greg Smith, and extended family and community in Darwin, NT The Bernard, Donald and Paddy families and all our relations from Kalkaringi, Daguragu, Yarralin and surrounds; Extended family and community elsewhere in Australia The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board, Australia Council for the Arts, through the provision of a Fellowship (2015-16) The Australian Research Council, Discovery Indigenous Award Berndt Foundation, UWA National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Art & Design Australia Pauline Clague, New Horizon Films Pty Ltd Dr Felicity Meakins, ARC Senior Research Fellow (DECRA), Deputy Director of the UQ node of the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) Linguistics, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Queensland Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Ali Abdullah-Highfold, Lea Gardam and Shane Agius, Archive Collection, South Australian Museum Dr Michele Barker, UNSW Art & Design Australia, PhD supervisor Francoise Barr, Archivist, Access and Promotion, Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of Arts and Museums Professor Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law, Director of Research, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney Professor Jill Bennett, NIEA, UNSW Art & Design Australia Dr Jennifer Biddle, National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), UNSW Art & Design Australia, PhD supervisor Erika Charola, Linguist Gabrielle and Terry Cleary,Darwin, NT Richard Crampton, Darkstar Digital Fine Art Printing Services Micky Dewar, NT Heritage Coordinator, Northern Territory Library, Department of Arts and Museums I Northern Territory Government Dr Bonita Ely, UNSW Art & Design Australia, PhD supervisor (2012 – 2013) Katherine Hamilton, Manager, Access & Promotions, Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of Arts and Museums Professor Ross Harley, UNSW Art & Design Australia Devris Hasan, independent film-maker, video editing lecturer, Australian Film Television and Radio School Kaye Henderson, Manager, Parliamentary Library Service, Northern Territory Library, Department of Arts and Museums, Northern Territory Government James Marshall, independent film-maker National Archives of Australia NT, and Canberra National Film and Sound Archives of Australia National Library of Australia Anna Nettheim, Research Assistant, ARC Discovery Indigenous Research Project Jeff Parker, Principal, Kalkaringi Education Council, Kalkaringi Hetti Perkins, independent curator, writer, consultant Emily Pritchard and Joanne Wood, Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of Arts and Museums Penny Smith, Manager, Directors and Artists, Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation, Kalkaringi, NT Matthew Stephen, Manager, Oral History Unit, Northern Territory Archives Service, Department of Arts and Museums Kelly Sturgiss, Adobe Photoshop and Light Room Program Workshops Samantha Wells, NT Heritage Co-ordinator, Northern Territory Library, Department of Arts and Museums, Northern Territory Government Raymon Wilson, Project Manager, Territory Generation, Development & Project Services, Channel Island Power Station, Darwin, NT Government Ellie Young, Director Gold Street Studios, Trentham East, Victoria, for her assistance with the ‘blood/type’ series creation, during wet-plate/ collodian process workshops

Listen to Brenda L Croft on ABC program ‘Speaking Out’ with Larissa Behrendt by clicking here.

36 Gosbell Street, Paddington NSW 2021 Australia tel 61 2 9331 7775 fax 61 2 9331 1648 email web

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