New exhibition celebrates indigenous women

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The artist Boneta-Marie Mabo. Photo courtesy SLQ

A new exhibition at State Library of Queensland will celebrate identity and image through larger than life portraits of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

On Friday, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch launched Black Velvet: your label, a solo exhibition by inaugural kuril dhagun Artist in Residence Boneta-Marie Mabo.

Black Velvet features four oil painting portraits of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander women, alongside five striking life-sized sculptures of women emerging from black velvet, a metaphor for Indigenous women escaping the labels placed on them.

Rather than reclaiming or endorsing the derogatory term ‘black velvet’, Boneta-Marie aims to build awareness, and calls for acknowledgement, hope and change.  Minister Enoch said the exhibition drew attention to ongoing contemporary issues for Indigenous women in Queensland and across Australia.

“Through her artwork, Boneta-Marie honours the self-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, giving them a voice that was historically denied,” Ms Enoch said.

The new body of works showcased in Black Velvet were developed after Boneta-Marie’s 2015 residency in kuril dhagun, where the artist worked within the theme, ‘unsettled’.

State Librarian Sonia Cooper said Boneta-Marie’s work demonstrated the immense potential of the Artist in Residence program.  “SLQ is proud to be able to offer this level of support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and to work with them in this way,” she said.

“This program is an opportunity for Indigenous artists throughout Queensland to use their individual and cultural knowledge to shed new light on SLQ’s collections,” Mrs Cooper said.

Through her research into the library’s original materials and collections, Boneta-Marie discovered historical portraits of Indigenous women, referred to with derogatory terms such as ‘black velvet’ in place of names.

Boneta-Marie said that after seeing countless unnamed women, often in imposed domestic duty roles, it brought home the fact these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women weren’t valued as part of Australian society.

“This led me to create a series of works to celebrate our identities and create a positive representation of us that isn’t often seen in mainstream art,” Boneta-Marie said.

“The sculptures celebrate the black woman’s body and the black velvet material used is a visual representation of the labels forced upon us that are not our identity.”

Black Velvet: your label is a free exhibition that will be on display in kuril dhagun at State Library of Queensland until 29 May 2016.

For more information visit slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on.