‘Our Stories, Our Journey’ was our first exhibition as Coe Gallery, the UK’s first Aboriginal owned gallery. The artists’ works explored themes of connection to land, culture and identity and I feel the impact of the exhibition has been quietly profound. The conversations that I have engaged in or overheard in the gallery have allowed space for thought, planting a seed of contemplation.
Reflecting on the feedback, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, cultural pride and appreciation, for both artists and visitors. It was a joy to be able to curate the exhibition and hang the works of emerging Aboriginal artists, some of whose work has never been seen before in the UK and receptively, given some of our 500 visitors had never-before seen Aboriginal art.
A consistent theme within the artworks was the artist’s messages of love for land, nature and the need for connection which sang through the gallery at such a vibration it moved some visitors to tears.
“I am so touched by being part of (an) enriching and thought provoking art… Coe Gallery has brought to us an element of reflection that we are all connected… Interbeing and reflective about who we all are and where we all come from. All education has a power and so does this exhibition. We can see unseen, we can touch untouched, we hear what is not heard. Symbolic and really grounding.”
One of the aims of the exhibition was to encourage connection – to land or self. Bristol has been the perfect place in the UK to facilitate these conversations of cultural exchange and change. As a result of the 2020 BLM movement in Bristol, I have found it has encouraged people to start listening to each other and hearing other sides of history that have been lesser told. Because of this, I believe there is space in Bristol for the Indigenous experiences of Australia’s Traditional Owners to be heard.
Despite the colonial narrative that continues to override our Indigenous experiences, Bristol embraced our stories. Thank you to those that came for having an open mind and heart. What I have learnt from this exhibition is that we all individually long for connection and a sense of belonging. I believe that to belong, we have a responsibility to care for the place that we all equally belong to, our global home – our earth. Aboriginal culture has survived and thrived in harmony with the land for over 60,000 years. The knowledge and lessons in sustainability is essential in bringing back balance to our planet as we face the devastating impacts of a changing climate.
Thank you to the Mayor and the Vestibules for flying the Aboriginal flag outside City Hall, acknowledging Aboriginal Australians and amplifying our messages that we as people are still here and, have always been here. Thank you, too, to Bristol University and Bridging Histories for supporting our first exhibition. Going forward, Coe Gallery will continue putting on pop up exhibitions and working towards offering artist residencies, inviting Aboriginal artists to come to Bristol and participate in meaningful cultural exchange.