Jakarta. The Australian Embassy kickstarted the annual Naidoc Week with a live collaborative painting featuring Australian artist Jandamarra Cadd and his Indonesian counterpart Jerry Thung in Jakarta on Tuesday (11/07), followed by an art exhibition.
Naidoc originally stood for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. This year's event, themed "Our Languages Matter," is a celebration of the history, cultures and achievements of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. In Australia, the celebration is usually held in the first week of July every year.
This year's celebration in Jakarta is part of the yearlong #AussieBanget campaign promoting the cultures from Down Under with different themes every month.
The embassy chose Cadd and Jerry to paint together live as a symbol of close connection between the two countries, particularly between their indigenous cultures.
"The relationship between our two countries is built on deep and strong personal connections between our people. We have taken a modern approach to publicize historical links in many ways by encouraging Indonesian and Australian artists to collaborate," Australian Ambassador Paul Grigson told reporters.
Cadd is an acclaimed Aboriginal painter and descendant of the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warung people from his mother's side, with Scottish and Swedish blood from his father's side. On the other hand, Jerry is an impressionist painter born in Bogor, West Java, and a graduate of the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ).
Both had been painting for more than five hours when we met them in the embassy's courtyard. They combined techniques and mythologies into a joint artwork to depict the long history of collaboration.
Cadd applied the dot style, a technique integral to Aboriginal art portraying topographical view of landscapes, animal tracks, crowds of people and other patterns found in nature. He also drew sea turtles in currents surrounded by bold expressions of vibrant colors.
"I used sea turtles living in the border of currents. They've been doing their thing such as swimming and laying eggs for generations. It represents the relationship and collaboration that is not new, but has been going on for thousands of generations," he said.
Aquatic animals were juxtaposed with aerial ones, showing that water and air connect the two countries. Cadd's sea turtles on the left side met recurring mythical creatures in Indonesian folktales on the right, a dragon and a Garuda – a large legendary bird in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology – painted by Jerry in softer brush strokes.
"We [Indonesians] have many mythologies because there are many cultural tribes. But when it comes to Garudas and dragons, we all know them by heart," Jerry said.
Cadd and Jerry said they were excited to collaborate despite having just met. They communicated online through Facebook previously. The only challenge they encountered was to simplify their techniques so that their work would be ready for the art exhibition's opening at 6 p.m.
The collaborative painting will be one of 50 artworks and photographs by Aboriginal artists showcased at the embassy.
It is the first time the embassy's complete collection of indigenous art is presented in a single space. They were normally presented separately in the Chancery Building, the Executive Residence and the ambassador's official residence.
The works include contemporary paintings, digital reproduction of bark paintings by maestros from Arnhem Land and photographs by Wayne Quilliam.
One of the works that stood out was the Yirrkala batik, which is an Aboriginal painting on batik fabric made with a canting. The batik was the first cross-cultural collaboration in visual art, as it was jointly created by Aboriginal artist Nawurapu Wununmurra, in collaboration with batik makers from Pekalongan, Central Java, in 2015.
Wununmurra, a native Yolngu, depicted the history between his ancestors and traders from Makassar, South Sulawesi. The Yolngu is a tribe living in Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory.
"As early as 1700, fishing communities in Makassar, South Sulawesi, made the voyage to Northern Australia's indigenous cultures," Grigson said.
It is believed that the Makassar people established trade ties with the Yolngu before the arrival of Europeans in Australia.
Wununmurra made several batik paintings. The one currently on display at the embassy depicts linear patterns representing storm clouds. Such image usually represents solemn occasions, such someone's passing. It can be interpreted as a portrayal of the sadness likely experienced by the Yolngu people when the Makassar traders sailed back home.
The indigenous art exhibition ends on Thursday. Guided tours to view the exhibition are available on July 12-13 by registering here.