Exhibition held at Indigenous Gallery, The Australian Museum, Sydney 26th September 2008 to 30 March 2009
The Darling River in far-western New South Wales forms part of the traditional lands of the Barkindji Aboriginal people. The Barkindji people call the Darling River the ‘Barka’ and Barkindji means ‘belonging to the river’. Many Barkindji people state that ‘without the river we are nothing’, ‘we lose our identity’. The art works shown here express something of the relationship that four Barkindji artists from Wilcannia, William (Badger) Bates, Phillip Bates (Badger’s son), Murray Butcher and Willie-Don Hunter have with the river. This includes present and past experiences of river life, ancestral beings and family and Dreaming stories. As with much of Australia, land use by non-Aboriginal settlers has created accumulative and increasing impact upon the country of far-western NSW. Changes to water cycles and flows, irrigation demand further up the river system and an extended period of drought has further seen the quality and quantity of water in the river altered.Some of the works such as ‘no more catfish’ are reflections on this. Others, such as those representing Ngatji the rainbow serpent, the creator of the Darling River, are expressive of the ongoing importance of this ancestral being to life on the Darling.