Jumbi's Gendook: Brother in Laws Canoe

East Gippsland Aboriginal Arts Corporation Visual Arts Launch.

9 February > 5 March 2010

As part of the St Kilda Festival 2010, Yalukit Wilam Ngargee (People Place Gathering), an Indigenous festival organised by the City of Port Phillip will take place. Event partner, the Alliance française de Melbourne will host for the second consecutive year, an exhibition by artists from the East Gippsland Aboriginal Arts Corporation (EGAAC) from 9 February to 5 March.

Albert Mullet in the spotlight, senior Gunai/Kurnai elder and founding member of EGAAC.

Who is Uncle Albert?
My name is Albert Mullet. I was part of the National Indigenous Art Board of Australia created at the end of the 1970s. Our primary goal was to promote Aboriginal art, neglected by the federal authorities until then, and to then form a lobby group which would incite the Australian Arts Council to grant us a real financial budget each year. When I say us, I’m talking about Indigenous arts projects. As representative of Victoria, my mission was to travel to the state’s 35 communities to establish an inventory on artistic production. Since that time, I think we’ve come a long way, but there remains a lot to be done.
For the second consecutive year, EGAAC artists will exhibit at the Alliance française de Melbourne as part of the St Kilda Festival.

What does the Corporation represent?
Based in Bairnsdale, East Gippsland, it is the only Aboriginal Arts Corporation in Victoria. In the middle of the 1990s, we decided with other elders to set up this organisation so that local artists could show the range of their talents, receive support and thus preserve our culture. It has a management committee of seven people, all Aboriginal, a small administrative team and more than 130 members. Today, young people in the region are realising that through the corporation, they can lay claim to, and produce their art, whether it takes the form of painting, sculpture, music or performance.
Which community do you belong to?
My ancestors are Gunai/Kurnai. “G” is the spelling closest to our pronunciation. Within the scope of programs with universities in Victoria, I’ve worked a lot with young Aboriginals who didn’t know anything about their past. We try, starting with their surnames or nicknames, to identify their ancestral community. All of them, or their parents and
grandparents, were a part of the Stolen Generations. There has been so much suffering, exclusion and misunderstanding since the British colonists arrived. Our ancestors were put onto reserves, onto “mission stations.” We must not forget.
How do you see the future of EGAAC?
This is the permanent topic of discussion in my family, who are very involved in the corporation. Our job is to continue to fight against the negative preconceptions still targeting Aboriginal communities: alcoolism, unemployment and violence. In Victoria on the other hand, there are extremely talented young artists who should be encouraged, and new leaders who are conscious of the richness of their cultures. Mentalities need to change on both sides.
In the last few years, works by some Aboriginal artists have sold for incredible amounts at the international level.

What do you think of this trend?
That artists can live from their art doesn’t bother me. What does, is that abuse exists in some communities who are completely exploited by art dealers. But for me, what is most unfortunate is that the diversity of Aboriginal works is not really recognised. The wider public only knows artists from the Northern Territory, Arnhem Land, or Papunya. Australia is a vast land, which is why, through EGAAC, we work for Victorian artists’ promotion and distribution.

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