“Country always calls me back,” says Penny Evans. “I love the drive and I feel it when I cross into our ancestral Country. As I leave Country on my way back to Lismore, I instinctively feel where I cross and I’m off Country again. Going to specific locations where I know my ancestors were born, and specifically my grandmothers, that Country sings to me.”
Evans, whose Gamilaraay homelands are a day’s drive from her studio, is one of eight Aboriginal artists in Seeing Country, a group exhibition that seeks to highlight Indigenous knowledge and insights into natural ecologies.
This theme is particularly evident Evans says, in her ceramic vessels titled Silver Bullets, 2018. These works are a response to the “shocking state of our rivers everywhere, but particularly in the northern basin which affects every level of our discrete ecologies.” And, she explains, her title “refers to a solution which has always been there, but unfortunately colonisers don’t listen to: our ancestor’s land management skills, deep knowledge, and understanding of environment and ecologies through time immemorial relationships to Country and kin.”
But, as both Seeing Country and Evans point out, knowledge of Country is not something confined to a distant past; it is ever-evolving.
In her own practice Evans describes taking her ceramic works to specific locations and “arranging, embedding, hanging, resting, intermingling, submerging and sometimes losing pieces in the landscape.” For her, this process of dadirri – ‘deep listening and observance’ promotes healing as well as learning. “I’ve come to understand the importance of ceremony for continuation, increase and ecological health.”
Held in conjunction with NAIDOC Week and curated by Freja Carmichael, Seeing Country features work by Paul Bong, Elisa Jane Carmichael, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, Belinda Close, Penny Evans, Carol McGregor, Kim Williams and Philomena Yeatman.
Redland Art Gallery
30 June—1 September