My highland warrior is seen through the telescopic sights of a rifle, his head surrounded by the leaves of his homeland, which also reference organisations that ignore the atrocities committed against these owners of the land [EMMA THURLOW, CATALOGUE]
PNG born Emma Thurlow won the People’s Choice Award at the 2016 Sampari Art Exhibition and Sale for West Papua with a striking portrait printed on a round plate of wood to highlight the artist’s concern for the ancient forests of her homeland that continue to be logged at unsustainable rates. West Papuan warrior is seen through the telescopic sights of a rifle, his head surrounded by a half-wreath of leaves, some green, others brown, and red, which the artist employs to call in West Papuans deep and enduring commitment to their land even in the face of Indonesia’s genocidal policies and the world’s indifference to their status as a ‘dwindling minority’ population. Thurlow’s work began with an image of a Papuan highlander by Russian photographer, Andrey Gudkov. The rest of her computer-vector illustration was drawn with a wacom tablet. The eco-conscious artist mounted her work on a small round plate of wood to highlight her concern for the ancient forests of her homeland that continue to be logged at unsustainable rates.
West Papua warrior was one of forty works in the kaleidoscopic purview of West Papua hosted by the Federal Republic of West Papua in the Australian Catholic University Art Gallery in Melbourne in December 2016. The exhibition was directed by Bronwen Bender and Hana Vasak, and opened by ACU Associate Vice-Chancellor Dr John Ballard who stressed the role of artists and universities in sparking social change and prosecuting political progress. Nina Rubinstein’s ARTWAY FRAMES sponsored the People’s Choice Award with a $100 voucher.
The FRWP Womens Office is extremely grateful to Artway Frames, and to the other sponsors, namely the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne), Bendigo Bank (Clifton Hill), Moon Dog Craft Brewery (Abbotsford), Total Print Solutions (Footscray), Taking off Tours Travel Agency (Melbourne), Image United Photography (Prahran) and Konpira Maru Wines.
FROM THE CATALOGUE The Sampari Art Exhibition strives to engage Australians in a conversation about the culture and recent history of West Papua in order to secure a more humane future for its peoples. Works reference traditional cultural forms, symbols of strength, resilience and freedom, as well as the social and political aspirations of present-day West Papuans (RUTH McDOUGALL)
TOMMY LATUPEIRISSA‘s extraordinary vase of Melanesian flags focussed the exhibition around the West Papuans long-term political ambition to be known and recognised as a Melanesian state not an Asian colony. Tommy was born in Maluku, the ‘spice’ island archipelago that shadows West Papua. He has spent years encouraging Pacific Islanders to identify and reclaim Melanesia’s western border which includes his own homeland.
SAMPARI 2017 attracted an impressive array of international entries, including works from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, West Papua, America and the Netherlands. Below are thumbnails of the works, half of which sold during the exhibition. (Separate web page for the Melanesian entries at ).
HUMPHREY KING’s enigmatic In the rubble of divinities was bought by Dr John Ballard for his office in the Australian Catholic University. The work was entered by Identity Transduction Systems (ITS) an art collective in New York that makes politically motivated art in support of basic human rights …. “we believe in art by any means and strive to do work that’s visceral, bold and immediate … hoping to broaden the scope of what can be politically useful art.”
JAIR PATTIPEILOHY is from the Netherlands, although his arrestingly beautiful photo-portraits evoke his Moluccan heritage. (The Moluccan archipelago shadows the coast of West Papua). Cultural transmission features Frank Berhitu, from Maluku but born in The Netherlands, teaching his grandson Asmara to play the tiha (drum) in the time-honoured tradition of transmitting knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material orally from one generation to the next.
Identity features Nel Tutupoly and Sigal Likumahuwa with Sempe sempe (the traditional pottery of Ouw village in Saparua Island). ‘Identity’ is from a photo series of Moluccan women in Holland that culminated in an exhibition Hier sta ik – Molukse vrouwen in Nederland (Here I am – Moluccan women in the Netherlands). The Netherland’s distinctive Moluccan community are the families of soldiers in the Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) who were transported to Holland in 1951 after the newly independent Indonesian Republic refused to employ them. Others are descendents of Moluccans in West Papua who left after the Indonesian occupation in 1962.
FROM THE CATALOGUE … On 1 December 2015, a group of West Papuan and Australian activists set up a vigil outside the Indonesian Consulate in Melbourne to commemorate the first official raising of the Morning Star flag in Netherlands New Guinea. Hundreds of Papuan students had been arrested in Jogjakarta (Java) and shootings in Yapen Island (West Papua) had claimed the lives of four. Timber, straw, bark and rope were lashed together to erect the iconic circular form of the honai, the traditional home of the Dani peoples of the Central Highlands. The round steep-roofed honai holds in the warmth and encourages rain run-off, but constructed thousands of miles away on a blistering summer day in Australia, this icon of ingenuity and environmental understanding was a very different type of shelter. Referencing the famous Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Melbourne honai has become the symbolic home of displaced West Papuans. The model Lobar Wainggai created for the Sampari Art Exhibition mobilises the importance of the architectural form as well as the honai‘s new symbolic and political role for West Papuans in the diaspora. Lobar is one of forty-three West Papuans who in 2006 made the dangerous canoe crossing from Merauke to Cape York Peninsula seeking refuge from persecution (RUTH McDOUGALL)
Helen Andres’ Yarra Dreaming features Babuan Mirino and her grand-daughter on the banks of the Yarra River in Docklands near the Federal Republic of West Papua office at 838 Collins St. Helen, who also works in the Lifestyle Working Building, believes the West Papua office is “a collective dream, or a collection of dreams, endeavouring to provide a basis to make their dreams a reality … freedom for West Papua and its people to live their own lives.” The five-star-energy office is supported by the WEST PAPUA RENT COLLECTIVE, a unique galaxy of Australians investing in Australia’s nearest neighbour during its transition from Indonesian colony to independent Melanesian state.
These photographs were taken in the seas off Darwin during the West Papua Freedom Forum in 2015, when activists on the Pog protested against a military exercise by Australia, United States, New Zealand, and Japan that involved 30,000 soldiers, marines, sailors and flyers. As the Pog circled the armada, the activists were warned to desist, but then, curiously, allowed to board the massive American warship (more on Freedom Flotilla resistance in 2013 and 2015 at https://freedomflotillawestpapua.org)
Blessed are the liberators is a lino-cut printed in red, white, and cobalt blue. Two of the three prints sold during the exhibition. According to the artist, the image “was based on my dream about Louise Byrne from the West Papua Women’s Office, where a ring on her finger dramatically metapmorphosed into an elaborate gold head-dress. This spiritually symbolic sign encouraged her to persevere seeking justice when illegal Indonesian intelligence activities across Australia were at unprecedented levels of intensity”.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … In 2013 my wife and I visited this magnificent tree in the East McDonnell Ranges out of Alice Springs, Central Australia. We were truly filled with awe – it is a tree over 300 year old and measures 33 metres tall – and I knew I had to paint it. While it is popularly called a Ghost Gum the tree is technically Corymbia Papuana, originally named for the specimens of the tree found in the land of West Papua/Papua New Guinea which once shared an undivided land mass with north Australia.
The Morning Star flag is an emblem of resistance and celebrates the nationhood West Papuans claim and so far have been denied. My painting morphs the Papuana tree into the star of the flag, reminding Australians of their linked geographical history, and a symbol of the responsibility of Australians to help resolve the injustice north of our shores. I have included a distressed red-tailed black cockatoo, also indigenous to the area, alerting us with its cry.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … These three revolutionary leaders have become symbols of nationalism in the Congo (Patrice Lamumba), Mexico (Emiliano Zapata) and West Papua (Theys Eluay). All were assassinated for standing up for the rights of their people.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … a representation of Muma Yosepha, one of the most highly regarded female independence advocates in West Papua. Her life story is of relentless lobbying for justice, and protest against the Indonesian occupation and the overwhelming presence of the Indonesian military.
“Cutting and splicing images together, combining found images from secondhand books, creating an uncanny world where the sequence and division of time, space and memory are forgotten, leaving only the subject present within their surreal, dreamlike surroundings. My work is influenced by a 2012 documentary of the same name about the West Papuans struggle for freedom from Indonesian colonial rule (Kubi Vasak).
FROM THE CATALOGUE … Kubi Vasak’s hauntingly beautiful collages of the Bird-of-paradise reference the importance of this bird as a sign of solidarity for Papuans. These painstakingly detailed works also speak to a long history of economic exchange, reaching back over thousands of years to plumes gathered in Papua to be worn by the Kings of Nepal, Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire, and warriors manning ships depicted on 2000 year-old Dong Son drums. Histories of expansionist colonial occupation including the foreign appropriation of the West Papuans land and natural mineral resources continue to threaten the lives and wellbeing of the indigenous peoples of West Papua just as surely as the trade of plumes and destruction of natural habitat has that of the Bird of Paradise. The Bird of Paradise has forty-two species and is found across West Papua, Papua new Guinea and Eastern Australia. It seems particularly apt to have this motif in an exhibition of equally diverse and visually enticing works from across this same geography. Nestled amongst strong works in many different media, Vasak’s ‘Forgotten Bird of Paradise 1 & 11’ reminds us here in Australia of our proximity and shared connections to the peoples of West Papua, inviting us to further engage in order to develop stronger understandings and support for their plight (RUTH McDOUGALL).
Skye Williams’ preferred medium of marker pens allows a speed of drafting that embraces ‘mistakes’ to inform the next mark. Thus, stream of consciousness is sought for exploration of pattern work and creating colour contrast, while seeking the next figurative form to draw out.
The West Papuan flag with the red rising star glows in a morning sunrise. The morning star reflects six white bands of light across the blue water. Distinct West Papuan reef biodiversity is depicted underneath. The banned West Papuan flag isn’t being hidden pictorially. This image speaks of embedded culture of people in a place, as represented by this nationalist symbol actually depicting the environment of West Papua” (SKYE WILLIAMS).
ALEJANDRO AGUANTA … I wanted to capture a moment of peace. This strong yet calm native woman from West Papua represents hope and a tiny fire that burns bright amongst the dark struggles of the province.
A warrior woman from the PNG highlands stands in possession of her inner strength and in solidarity with her West Papuan sisters. The simple majestry of the ‘bilas’ (traditional adornment) is a reflection of the fundamental right to dignity and autonomy of the people of West Papua [BUNNY CARVER].
“Ephemeral art as a metaphor for life applies generally to us all, but most specifically to West Papua. West Papuans face dilemmas with ephemerality at many levels: the destruction of the natural environment; the transiency of an indigenous culture being lost to genocide, transmigration and exiling; the loss of political prisoners’ legacies of struggles and gains through the passage of time and inadequate records management. The heights of their cycles are not always being captured, preserved, and the messages shared” (Barbara Tipper).
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … I honour and acknowledge the strength, resilience and faith of West Papuan freedom fighters and political prisoners past and present. May they know they are not alone or abandoned but will live on as their stories are told and their legacies preserved and honoured through the arts.
The Ceremony for West Papuan martyrs and political prisoners was during the West Papua Rent Collective Christmas Party (see https://dfait.federalrepublicofwestpapua.org/west-papua-rent-collective-christmas-party/)
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … This splendid Palm Cockatoo is an emblem of West Papua and its unique culture and environment. A symbol of the strength and uniqueness of West Papua and its people.
Cherry Piper is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores memory in connection with object and places. Her interest in nostalgia led her to explore macramé techniques of textile making combined with driftwood found on Australian beaches.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT … Freedom ties references the tradition of weaving and textile making which West Papuans continue to use to create practical and cultural objects. The macramé knots are loosely based on the natural curves of the landscape and suggest a pair of eyes like those found on war shields and masks.
ONA FILLOY has donated poster editions of her work to the West Papua Womens Office in Docklands. Sales are supporting the West Papua Womens Congress in West Papua in 2017.
Federal Republic of West Papua sincerely thanks:
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