2021 Promoting Indigenous Recognition Award Winner

Newcastle Art Gallery and City of Newcastle, NSW

WARWAR: The Art of the Torres



The Project

Four years in the planning, landmark exhibition 'WARWAR: The Art of Torres Strait' was the most significant First Nations exhibition project in Newcastle Art Gallery's 64-year history.

Developed in collaboration with highly awarded Torres Strait Islander (TSI) artist and curator Brian Robinson, the exhibition was timed to coincide with important dates such as Mabo Day, Reconciliation Day, Coming of the Light and NAIDOC week. Through the endorsement and support of the local TSI community, the Gallery was able to deliver authentic public programs and educational resources that showcased TSI culture to the broader community.

The exhibition featured over 130 works of art including several significant cultural artefacts that had never been on display or seen outside of the Torres Strait. This gave our local Newcastle-born TSI community a unique opportunity to connect to their own culture through rarely seen works created by their ancestors.

The exhibition was presented in English, Kala Lagaw Ya (Western TSI), and Meriam Mir (Eastern TSI) languages through an 86-page publication and exhibition wall text panels. A partnership with our local TSI community and the University of Newcastle produced an innovative Augmented Reality experience and education space design that shared important cultural traditions such as language and TSI connection to land, sea and sky.

Acknowledging the importance of this exhibition, national media coverage was seen across every major Australian city. Broadcasters included ABC News, ABC TV Art Works, NBN News and NITV, as well as national arts publications such as Art Almanac, Art Guide, Art Monthly and Australian Art Collector. The Gallery also produced four exhibition videos, creating invaluable access to TSI communities across Australia to engage with the exhibition with over 63,000 views across social media.

Attracting 14,959 visitors from across Australia despite only being open 64 days due to COVID-19 lockdowns, 18 public programs and 30 school tours were delivered in collaboration with local, NSW and QLD based TSI practitioners.

To further strengthen community cultural ties, City of Newcastle raised the TSI flag at City Hall for the first time in a ceremony prior to the exhibition opening. The flag remains in place today.

The Award Category

This award recognises local government projects which:

  • raise awareness and understanding of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and culture in Australia’s contemporary society 
  • build positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through events and activities
  • implement innovative community-building strategies in partnership with local Indigenous communities. 

Successful projects in this award category benefit communities by:

  • bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to share skills and experiences 
  • undertaking projects that support the revival, strengthening and promotion of Indigenous culture, traditions and languages 
  • enabling Indigenous residents to inform local government activities and policies. 

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