Kyra Mancktelow: Gubba Up

Following 2021's "Unsilenced" – Kyra Mancktelow's first major solo show at N.Smith Gallery – is a presentation of the artist's new research-led work, "Gubba Up." Mancktelow, the winner of the Telstra Emerging Artist Award at the 2021 NATSIAAs, explores the ways in which histories are communicated and suppressed in settler-colonial Australia, using archival research and a deft, sensitive approach to materiality.

In a broadcast given for the 2021 churchie emerging art prize, where she was a Special Commendation winner, Mancktelow reflected on the absence on First Nations histories in her own schooling in this country. Here, she stated that “I’m putting this art in the world for people to view, and see, and have an understanding of the histories” frequently suppressed in official or institutional versions of our past. A Quandamooka Ngugi Nunukul woman of Minjerribah and Mulgumpin, with links to the Mardigan People of Cunnamulla and South Sea Island Vanuatu, Mancktelow attends not only to the historical evidence which persists despite ongoing colonial violence, but also to the shape and feeling of that which has been lost – discarded, destructed, or, as the catalogue essay for this exhibition says, “covered through thick lenses of ridicule, revulsion, or pity.”

In this exhibition, Mancktelow works outwards from Grace Karsen’s research into the “gifting” of military jackets to First Nations peoples through the nineteenth century, with reference to a little-known archive of paintings from 1810-20 showing First Nations people in this attire. Particularly, Mancktelow makes references to Alphonse Pellion’s watercolour Sauvages de la Nouvelle Galles du Sud, 1819. A mode of colonial control and coercion intended to subdue “unruly” bodies and people, these “gifts” exemplify the colonial erasure that First Nations people have fought against here for hundreds of years.

To “gubba up” is to “whiten up” – which is also, literally, to cover up one’s skin, one’s identity and way of being. Mancktelow explores this covering up of bodies, of culture, and of histories through both textile and ink impression works in this show. The translucence of the ink impressions, particularly, takes the work far beyond reconstruction of historical objects, and into a thorough, attentive reflection on what is suppressed and what is sustained. Indeed, as the catalogue says, “While these jackets and coats are long gone, Kyra’s work will remain.” Mancktelow is also currently showing with N.Smith Gallery at Melbourne Art Fair, alongside Thea Perkins.

Gubba Up
15 – 26 February
N. Smith Gallery, Sydney

Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related