Indigenous artwork takes up residence at the Alliance Française

This article has been published exclusively by the  Courrier Australien and the Alliance Française de Melbourne.     French version
Once again, this year the Alliance Française de Melbourne welcomes the Dhumbadha Munga exhibition as part of the Yalukut Weelam Ngargee Indigenous Arts and Cultural Festival organised by the City if Port Phillip. Sponsored by the association The Torch, the exhibition presents works from 9 artists, 6 of whom are ex-prisoners whose art was recognised while they were still incarcerated. The exhibition’s curator, Kent Morris, tells us the touching story of this collective work.

“The association The Torch has been running for about 20 years. In the beginning, it offered a multidisciplinary program for Indigenous people in prison. Seven years ago, I was in charge of developing an activity more specifically linked to art and culture. Finally, this activity took precedence over the rest.” The association helps detainees to put together the pieces of the puzzle to their identity, to understand the stories of their ancestors, their language and even their lost traditions. From here, they can begin (or continue) to express themselves through the medium they prefer: painting, sculpture or ceramics… “we help them while they are still in prison – we work with 14 penal institutions in Victoria – but we also accompany them when they get out, these two as aspects are equally as important” explains Kent Morris.

Since the beginning, The Torch has organised a large collective exhibition annually entitled ‘Confined’ where all of the participants in the program are exhibited. “But the production of work has increased so much that we’ve had to find other exhibitions spaces outside of the gallery at the St Kilda town hall. This is how we met the directors of the Alliance Française.” For the last three years, Eildon Mansion has welcomed the most promising talents from The Torch, including certain members of the association. Kent Morris is an artist himself: this year, he is exhibiting his works alongside the others… as their equal. “We think it’s important not to make distinctions” he smiles. Between teachers and students, framed and framing… there are no bounds.  

In the small gallery adjoining the large gallery which was once the ‘ballroom’ the walls are covered in spinning dragonflies. The paintings by Robby Wirramanda often take on this allegorical figure which announces the arrival of a fruitful season and which reflects the personal journey of the painter. “The mauve, pink, blue and silvery backgrounds… are the colours that you can see in North West Victoria, the region where Robby is from” explains Kent Morris. In the centre, surrounding a wooden sculpture, curved ceramic plates give a sense of the traditional Indigenous items which were used to carry children, fruit or water.

Originally from New South Wales, artist Graham Gilbert is entirely self-taught. His paintings mix Pointillist techniques with geometric lines and more figurative forms. His nearly turquoise blue is astonishing. He says that he was inspired by his grandmother and his mother, a nurse who was very creative with textiles. He has sold several paintings to institutions as well as museums. “This is the objective” explains Kent Morris “we want our artists to be able to have visibility in contemporary art galleries and that their works are bought by private buyers such as professionals”.

Here in St Kilda, in the airy space which opens out onto the garden, during the six weeks that the exhibition is open, collectors won’t be disappointed. You’ll just need to loosen the purse strings, as artists in their own right, the prices are set at market price.

Written by Valentine Sabouraud

Translated by Ilaria O’Brien

Dhumbadha Munga runs from 28th February to 28th March
Free entry - Alliance Française, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda, 3182

More information here

You may also like...

The flora of the Paris basin

The flora of the Paris basin

18 July to 15 August 2018
An exhibition by Guillaume Tcherquez
Eildon Gallery, Alliance Française de Melbourne

The Melbourne Salon

The Melbourne Salon

Thu 2 August
A discussion with Dr Alexis Bergantz about French convicts and the case for freedom in Australia.

Jazzy Jeudi - La Nuit Blanche

Jazzy Jeudi - La Nuit Blanche

Thu 13 September
Following on from their success playing at this year’s Fête de la Musique, La Nuit Blanche return to the Alliance Française for a night of chanson française.

Vin & Fromage

Vin & Fromage

Each term on Tuesday, from 6.30pm to 8.00pm
(except School & Public Holidays)

Thanks for sharing! / Merci pour le partage!


St Kilda branch:
51 Grey Street, ST KILDA
Tel : 03 9525 3463
Fax : 03 9525 5064

Postal Address:
PO Box 2042,

St Kilda branch opening hours:
Mon - Fri: 9am to 7pm (switchboard/reception: 9.30am to 6.30pm)
Sat: 9am to 6pm (switchboard/reception: 9am to 5.30pm).

How to find us:
Trams: 16, 96, Fitzroy Street
3, 5, 64, 67 St Kilda Junction (3, 64, 67 Alma Road)
Car park available
Wheelchair access

City branch:


Level 13, 55 Swanston St, MELBOURNE
Tel : 03 9525 3463
Fax : 03 9525 5064

City branch opening hours:
Mon - Thurs 9am to 1pm & 2pm to 6.30pm
Fri - Sat: 9am to 12pm & 1pm to 6pm

How to find us:
Trams: 1, 3, 3a, 5, 6, 8, 11, 16, 42, 48, 64, 67, 72, 109
& 112 running down Swanston St (stop: Collins St/Swanston St)
Trains: Flinders St Station is 1 block away