Boomalli Aboriginal Artists' Cooperative

2008
CC BY-SA 2.0
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Boomalli Aboriginal Artists' Cooperative

The contemporary urban Aboriginal art movement traces its roots back to the Koori Art '84 exhibition held in 1984 at the Artspace Visual Arts Centre in Woolloomooloo. Koori Art '84 was followed by Urban Koories in 1986. Both exhibitions showed the works of Euphemia Bostock, Fiona Foley, Michael Riley and Jeffrey Samuels.

The new movement provoked a backlash of negative reviews with critics deeming the work 'second rate art' and 'a passing fad'. [1] In response, a group of city-based Aboriginal artists, some who had been involved in the Koori Art '84 and Urban Koories exhibitions, banded together to form the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative. [2] The word boomalli was chosen as it means 'to strike' or 'make a mark' in at least three Aboriginal languages – Bandjalung, Gamilaraay and Wiradjuri. [3]

The cooperative provided member artists with an exhibition space and a supportive environment in which to create art free from external definitions of Aboriginality. The expression of a modern, urban form of Indigenous art was central to the cooperative's aims and as a result much of the work produced there was political in its message. The 1988 De Facto Apartheid exhibition echoed the call of Indigenous academic and activist Marcia Langton's paper of the same name, for acknowledgement of Australia's black history. In 1989 Taken Away by Sally Morgan addressed the issues faced by the stolen generations. [4]

By the 1990s the popularity of traditional Aboriginal art was booming, and contemporary urban artists were beginning to gain some recognition, largely through Boomalli's collaboration with major galleries in Australia and overseas. [5] Boomalli had grown to accommodate four full-time staff funded by the Australia Council, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the New South Wales Ministry for the Arts and the Department of Education.

However, severe funding cuts in the early 1990s threatened to close the cooperative down. Supporters of Boomalli rallied and, following administrative changes and relocation to Sydney's inner west, the organisation managed to stay afloat. [6] In 2008, Boomalli is located in Flood Street, Leichhardt and operates a studio, exhibition space and shop.

References

Brenda L Croft, 'A change is gonna come', Periphery, no 40–41, Spring 1999–Summer 2000

Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000

Notes

[1] Brenda L Croft, 'A change is gonna come', Periphery, no 40–41, Spring 1999–Summer 2000, p 52

[2] Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 271

[3] Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 544

[4] Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 272

[5] Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2000, p 274

[6] Brenda L Croft, 'A change is gonna come', Periphery, no 40–41, Spring 1999–Summer 2000, p 54

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