Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative: Deadly/Solid/Staunch

Ahead of Sydney's Mardi Gras celebrations, Boomalli's Deadly/Solid/Staunch delights in the rich, vibrant, and intergenerational history LGBTQIA+ life and activism in First Nations communities. Erin McFadyen speaks with Steven Ross, the exhibition's curator.

The show is billed as a celebration of the First Nations LGBTQIA+ community – surely a really diverse community in and of itself. Are there any particular stories/histories that the show is especially interested in?

 As well as new artworks by Boomalli artists, the exhibition will be a part-retrospective of Boomalli exhibitions and a showcasing of images from Mardi Gras marches and other community celebrations and gatherings. Within these images will be narratives of advocacy and activism, including images of many of who are now passed and who helped create and drive change for our First Nations LGBTIQA+ community.

I’m especially interested in intergenerational histories within the LGBTQIA+ community; it sounds like  there will be works from artists of different generations in the show?

We absolutely have works from artists of different generations – in the retrospective photographic  images and the new visual art pieces from established Boomalli artists and emerging artists. 

And there are particular stories we want to highlight such as Dharug woman, Aunty Chris Burke who was 78er and drummer in  feminist post-punk band Stray Dags, or dancer and HIV/AIDS Activist Malcolm Cole, whose 1988 Captain Cook Mardi Gras outfit is now iconic. 

Are there any new works you’re especially excited about in the show?

 The new works by the Boomalli artists are a response to a brief about acknowledging the advocacy and activism of our First Nations LGBTIQA+ elders and community leaders and the community itself. We commissioned three works by Dennis Golding-Bowman, Jai Walker, and Jasmine Sarin and each is unique and beautifully realised, showcasing the power and resilience of our peoples and the importance of visibility and representation.  There are also exquisite textile pieces by long-time Boomalli artist Uncle Jefferey Samuels, celebrating the journey of the marriage equality campaign and  a couple of fabulously fun and colourful paintings by new artist Nola Taylor . All the artists have challenged themselves and we cannot wait for everyone to see their pieces. 

Has the exhibition involved any particular forms of community engagement? And, relatedly, are there any public programs planned?

We put a call out to community through as many networks as possible to come into Boomalli to submit images from their private collections of Mardi Gras celebrations, community gatherings, protests or just hanging with their chosen family. This will form a memory wall where people can see long lost faces and remember fabulous times together. There will be an opening night where people can meet some of the artists on 18th March 2022, with an artists’ and curator’s talk prior to this opening, where our commissioned artists will discuss their projects. 

Boomalli LGBTQIA+ artists include: Jeffrey Samuels, Jasmine Sarin, Ella Noah Bancroft, Jenny Fraser, Hayley Pigram, Peta-Joy Williams, Kyra Kum-Sing, Kirilly Dawn, Dennis Golding-Bowman, Nebbi Boii, Jessica Johnson, Nioka Lowe-Brennan, Jai Walker, Arone Meeks, and Nola Taylor.

24 February – 9 April 2022
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative, Sydney 

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