Having-Been-There by Nici Cumpston
In the spring of 2014 the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of U.Va. will exhibit the work of Nici Cumpston, a Barkindji artist and curator from Adelaide.
having-been-there is a series of images created by Cumpston to document the evidence of Aboriginal occupation in Australia before European settlement. Tree engravings, ring trees, and remnants of stone tools abound in Barkindji land. These act as subtle signifiers of the ancestors that once lived in and created the country, and of food and water sources that ensured survival. They also serve as undeniable proof of Aboriginal people “having been there,” before and amidst the colonial assertion of terra nullius, the idea that Australia was a “land without people.” Additionally they are records of the Murray-Darling Basin river system’s natural beauty, as well as its gradual destruction from pollution, salination, and re-routing. Cumpston is refreshingly purposeful about her process, which combines the hand-drawn and the photographic.
The exhibition having-been-there will be on view at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection from January 17 – May 18, 2014, with an opening reception on Friday, January 24 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Cumpston's residency at U.Va., sponsored by Australia Council for the Arts, will take place in March 2014.